One Woman Challenges Perceptions of Somalia One Instagram Post at a Time

Screenshot of Ugaaso Boocow's Instagram account.

Screenshot of Ugaaso Boocow's Instagram account.

This article and radio report by Bradley Campbell for The World as part of the Across Women's Lives project originally appeared on on February 18, 2015, and is republished as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Somalia is another country torn apart by wars.

We've covered that in detail.

But there's much more to the country. That's what Ugaaso Boocow wants to show. The Toronto native moved to Mogadishu recently. That's where her parents are from. But to keep in touch with her friends and family back in Canada, she started posting pictures and short videos to Instagram.

And now, more than 47,000 people and counting are following her account. “I would post things that we didn't have in Canada, like perspiring pitchers of fruit juice, watermelon and mango, freshly squeezed lemon — the longest coastline in Africa,” she says. “Just to show that it's very much normal to be out here and to live here and to work here and to be a young women in this country.”

Her photos are beautiful. But at first glance you don't notice the pictures also say a ton, especially ones showing a paved road or lights. “It's unbelievable the small things that I was posting that were meaningless if you were in Canada,” she says. “Why would you take a picture of a light? That's because we actually have lights here now. The roads are paved. We have buildings. They fascinated people for whatever reason.”

Her followers span continents and countries. There's her hometown crowd in Toronto. Others in Scandinavia. More in Nigeria. She wants people to have a positive connotation to the words, Somalia, Mogadishu, and East Africa.

She's in it for the long haul, too. Magadishu is her home. “Mogadishu has always been my home in my heart. I was not in Mogadishu for 20-some-odd years, but Mogadishu has always been, and will always be my home.”


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