Firi festival shakes off negative stereotypes

Camel Yogurt and honey from natures finest milk on display during the Firi business and culture expo 2nd edition 2019. [Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard]

Damien Helly, a renowned international cultural advisor once said, “culture returns hope to people, and gives a chance to their injured souls to escape their nightmares, resentment, and vengeance.’ His sentiments were captured when the Somali community recently held the second edition of the annual Firi Cultural and Business Expo in Eastleigh, Nairobi.

 Firi is a Somali word loosely translated to mean ‘look’ but used in many instances to connote attention. It was planned to be a pure celebration and a platform to engage business partnerships, but it also ended up becoming an opportunity for the community to decry the challenges they face as a result of negative perceptions.

Holding the event in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi located east of the central business district was symbolic because it is associated with the Somali and Muslim communities. The area is predominantly inhabited by Somalis, whose presence is celebrated yet it equally bears the burden of negative sensitivities emanating from misleading narratives.

For the organizer of the event, Ahmed Mohamed, the annual event is a celebration of the cultural diversity of the area. Undeniably, it is not only the Somali community that resides in Eastleigh. Anybody visiting the area would be amazed at the blend of diversity in terms of cultures that harmoniously coexist within the vast estate.

 ‘‘Eastleigh is known as the business hub in Kenya contributing about 30 per cent of Nairobi County’s revenue. But it has been given negative connotation as terrorist breeding ground which is not true,” explained Mohamed.

Among other negative inferences is that of money laundering and other dirty businesses, matters that have often led to conflicts between the community and security agencies in Kenya, Mohamed says.

Businesses from clothing, electronics, international and local banking and transport among others thrive Young Muslims pay attention as Sheikh Salah Hamed Waziri (inset) of the Al Azhar mission in Kenya lectures on the importance of youth observing the holy month of Ramadhan and refraining from criminal activities. in the area.

The operators are people from different cultural settings, but it is hard not to spot a member of the Somali community freely interacting with everyone.

 “Connotations of piracy and terrorism among other lies have brought us many challenges. Police often descend and we bear the brunt. We want that to change,” said Mohamed.

He added, “we celebrate diversity while courting companies to give back to the community. Eastleigh is a business hub yet we don’t get value because of negative publicity.”

The negative connotation hit international space as a result of the 2015 Hollywood film British film, Eye in the Sky shot in South Africa but depicting terror attacks in Kenya.

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Damien HellyFiri festivalNegative stereotypes