The Mosaic Rooms Present Exhibition: Mogadishu- Lost Moderns

The Mosaic Rooms in London are pleased to present Mogadishu – Lost Moderns, the first exhibition to explore Mogadishu through its architecture and urban environment, narrating the story of Somalia’s journey from traditional African nation via colonisation and post colonialism to emergent independent state. This trajectory may be familiar to Africa but its manifestations are not: how was Mogadishu created as a modern African capital?

Challenging familiar mainstream images that depict the city solely as a place of conflict and
destruction, Somali-British architect Rashid Ali and British photographer Andrew Cross offer a unique account of what remains of the city’s urban fabric and key modernist symbols after two decades of civil conflict. These specially commissioned photographs are presented alongside rare archival photographs, not yet presented to the public, which document the city’s architecture under Italian colonial rule.

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Examining this urban process the exhibition reflects on how under Italian colonial rule the former
compact traditional Arab style city was transformed into a cosmopolitan modern African city at the beginning of the 20th Century. However it primarily focuses on the spatial developments that took place after independence, and in particular documents the new architectural symbols and city spaces that were a part of a wider social, political and economic strategy to articulate the newly claimed statehood.

“Mogadishu has in recent years become synonymous with violence, destruction and displacement, however, only two decades ago it was spatially, socially and culturally a very different city altogether”

Due to the destruction of much of its architecture, infrastructure and any historical archives
associated with it, there has been an absence of any literature and discourse on the cultural
development of Mogadishu through its architecture and built form. Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross’
exceptional work, resulting from their trip to Mogadishu in the summer of 2013, provides a
framework to better understand and explore this development.

“Being in Mogadishu, amongst these buildings and with the people who built them, I felt a palpable sense of the enduring qualities of architecture, not only physically but, also in the spirit of their original intent. Stripped to the bare essential elements of floors and walls, these buildings spoke clearly of the civic purpose for which they were built and the possibility of continuing with that purpose in the future.” (Andrew Cross)

This timely exhibition offers a space for reflection on the value of civic architecture and heritage
preservation. It also presents a unique perspective of a city in conflict, and an opportunity to promote new thinking on the broader discourse of urbanism in Africa and the Arab world.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of multidisciplinary events, which will focus on
showcasing contemporary Somali culture and raising further discussion on the issues highlighted in the exhibition. See the full programme at

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