... in mogadishu

How to carry a shark through the streets of Mogadishu

01 Jan 2011 | 38 words | fish food mogadishu photos somalia war

Just found this picture in the ‘the year 2010 in 100 pictures’ issue of the NRC magazine.

Probably my favorite picture from 2010. the NRC magazine shows a tiny little version, click on the image above for high-res.

Mogadishu avenue (or where to find black people in Helsinki)

So one thing you notice when you are in Finland is how incredibly white the place is. there are almost no black (or brown) people to be seen. I think when i was in Helsinki for the last time in june 2006 i saw 3 black people in 3 days.

So we brought up this observation over dinner yesterday and were informed that there are lots of black people but that one would need to go to ‘Mogadishu Avenue‘ to actually see them. Mogadishu Avenue, we were told, is the nickname of a street (Meri-Rastilan tie) in the eastern suburb of Meri-Rastila. Apparently the neighborhood (which has inspired a television series of the same name, which was filmed elsewhere, because the actual neighborhood is too tidy to convey the underlying idea of multicultural tension) got this name because it is the primary area of residence of members of the Somali community in Finland.

But then only a mere 20% of the area’s population are immigrants (mainly Estonians and Russians though) which seems to be shocking in the Finnish context. So special that according to the international edition of Helsinki Sanomat

… taxi drivers driving through the area still have fun counting the number of dark-skinned faces they see.

But then the taxi driver who drove me back to Helsinki from Meri-Rastilan (because i was stupid enough to take the last outbound metro and there is no obvious other public transport back to the city) didn’t count the number of black skinned faces. instead he did not say a single word during the entire ride (very finnish) and i suspect him of having been a bit drunk (very finnish as well).

In fact the amount of black people in Meri-Rastilan by no means justifies calling the place Mogadishu Avenue. The highest concentration of black people in Helsinki can be observed in the foyer of the Tennispalatsi cinema hall in the center (thanks for the tip Kari-Hans). Earlier tonight it was full with lots of extremely well dressed (compared to the average Finn) Somali teenagers hanging out there. Not sure if any of this (the stylish clothes or the hanging out) was in any way related to Eid Ul-Fitr or if this is where these youngsters usually spend their Friday nights.

photo by: Jukka Ritola taken from this gallery with more pictures from ‘Mogadishu avenue’.

New Orleans, Mogadishu

10 Sep 2005 | 671 words | united states security cities war media mogadishu

Been following the coverage about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina for the last couple of days and the whole thing has brought a lot of issues to the surface. (Boing boing has been an incredibly valuable source of information, jamie has written a nice summary mid last week and i also have rediscovered tomdispatch (they should fix their rss feed though). Now it seems that the situation is loosening up a bit, and it looks like there will be much less casualties than feared earlier (the total will stay well under 1000 if you ask me).

To me the most insane aspect of the whole story is the incredibly militarized reaction to this catastrophe. While there have been countless reports of armed gangs that supposedly have been looting killing and raping i have yet to see something that convinces me that these things have actually taken place on a larger scale than ususal: most of the stories have been based on hearsay and i have not come across one report that presented actual victims. Would be interesting to know if there are statistics about fire-arms-related casualties and injuries. Given the fact that almost every official involved in the rescue operation now seems to wear a kevlar vest and an assault rifle and half of them seem to be riding around in armoured personal carriers, one might assume that there must have been heavy losses among the rescue crews in the first 4 or 5 days which forced them to rund around as if they wehere in an actual war. But given the fact that there haven been no dead-hero stories about killed rescue workers i guess it is safe to assume that none of them got hurt, which makes the whole assault rifle carrying business pretty hard to understand (unless one assumes that rescue crews are mainly white and are just scared to to venture into a city populated by impoverished Africans Americans).

The insanity of this situation was best captured in a picture i saw a couple of days ago (i tried to find it back but image search on the net is still a pretty hopeless affair): a bunch of white males in civilian clothes with assault rifles, body armor and ridiculous sun glasses on the back of a pickup truck riding through a submerged street. the caption said something like ‘Police officers patrolling in New Orleans’. If the their vests would not have had ‘police’ and ‘sheriff’ written all over them one might have taken them for private contractors a.k.a mercenaries. The whole scene reminded me of Mogadishu during the height of the civil(?) war in the early nineties. the imagery of that conflict was more or less dominated by technicals: modified pickup trucks with groups of armed – in this case black – males on them. Back then the technicals were the most visible symbol of the ‘failed state’ in Somalia. It is rather ironic that the same configuration is supposed to be ensuring law and order in the US now.

Update (11.09.05): internet image search might be a hopeless affair, but nevertheless it can unearth little gems: there seems to be a plastic model set to build your own technical in 1/35.

Update (31.09.05): Todays International Herald Tribune runs a story (‘Rumors fueled tales of looting in New Orleans’) that seems to support both my assumptions made in this post. according to the article the total number of casualties stands at 845 and

a review of available evidence shows that some, though not all , of the most alarming stories where figments of frightened imagination […]. During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the chief of the New Orleans Police Department’s sex crime unit, Lieutenant David Benelli sai he and his officers lived inside the dome and investigated every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault and concluded that the other attacks had not happened. “I think it was urban myth” Benelli said.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: