Why don't we learn that, those traditional dances?: Becoming Minnesotan

Bibi Abdalla and Sumaya Yusuf, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, 2004.
  • Name - Sumaya Yusuf and Bibi Abdalla
  • Age at interview - 15
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Women dancing at Somali Independence Day, Minneapolis, July 1, 2004.
    Somali wedding, Minneapolis, June 19, 2004.  Minnesota Historical Society.

    We Are Here

    Arts, Identity, Language, Somali

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Somali young people are surrounded by American students at school and are quick to pick up on how Americans, talk, act, and think. As they become more fluent in English and participate more in American life, they often speak the Somali language less often and forego participating in traditional Somali activities and events. Some Somalis are afraid that they will lose their culture and traditions if the younger generation does not do more to keep them alive.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Sumaya Yusuf and Bibi Abdalla 3
    1:14 Minutes | 1.18Mb


    Narrator: Sumaya Yusuf (SY)

    SY:  I think Somali people are losing their culture. I’m not saying every single Somali teenager out there is losing their culture but I am scared that ten years from now you won’t see the Somali language being spoken that much. I’m scared about that. Also, other cultures, they still like to know about the history of their culture and stuff like that. If you think about it, I know a lot of teenagers aren’t interested in finding out the history of Somalia—besides the whole civil war. Before the civil war, there was still Somalia. There was still history. There were still traditions and stuff like that.

    Just this weekend I was watching a video, a wedding video, with my mother. They were doing this traditional dance that I have never seen in my life. I’ve seen the normal traditional dances that Somali people do at weddings, but this one was completely different, and they were wearing completely different clothes. I was like, “Mom, what is that? I have never seen that.” She said, “Oh, it’s just a traditional dance that they do in the north of Somalia.” I said, “How come I’ve never seen that? I’ve never seen that.” I was just like, why don’t we learn that, those traditional dances? That’s what makes Somalia unique from other cultures, you know. 

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    Adjective:  Relating to a part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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