When a young 26-year-old Somali woman created her Instagram account in 2014, it was to reassure her grandmother that she was safe and well 12,000 kilometers away in her long-suffering homeland of Somalia.
Having fled to Canada as a young child to escape the Somalian civil war with her grandmother, Ugaaso Abukar Boocow had to leave behind her mother in the chaos. After two whole decades of separation, Ugaaso crossed the Atlantic from Toronto to return to her mother once again.60,000 followers later, the seemingly innocuous act of comforting her grandmother overseas has made her an inspirational star to natives all over Somalia.
Ugaaso’s Instagram is filled with hundreds of photos of beautiful beaches, lunch dates, selfies, and cleverly humorous videos cataloging the hidden, positive side of Somalia that is not often depicted in media. While trying to show that it wasn’t all bad in her country, she not only managed to comfort her Canadian relatives through her pictures, but also managed to reach out to a much larger audience than she could have imagined.
“I did not know that there were so many other people who were hungry for those positive pictures, those beautiful pictures, those random sometimes irrelevant pictures of everyday life in Somalia,” Ugaaso told NPR News. “So now it’s become a responsibility to continue showing the world the beauty Somalia is.”
“To people who think I’m ‘concealing’ the chaos in Mogadishu with pretty pics of the beach,” Ugaaso posts on Twitter. “Bruh. Do u even have a beach in your city? Ha!”
Now, a year after the creation of her account, Ugaaso describes herself in her Instagram bio as a happily married trilingual writer, story teller, and the Artistic Director of Ugaaso Media Group — all at the young age of 27. Though she grew up in Toronto, Ugaaso is fluent in Somali and French, as well as English.
She now sees herself carrying on the Somalian cultural tradition of story telling. “You need new forms to keep the old alive, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Ugaaso’s Instagram feed can be found at Instagram.com/ugaasadda.