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"We Are Water MN" exhibit connects Minnesota's cultures through water

New exhibit connects Minnesota’s cultures through water
New exhibit connects Minnesota’s cultures through water 03:53

MINNEAPOLIS – "We Are Water MN" is a traveling exhibit that examines water issues in local communities through science, history, and personal stories.

Water protection is important, even in "the Land of 10,000 Lakes."

"The water issues here versus another part of Minnesota are gonna be different, and the things we need to do to protect and restore that water are different," said Britt Gangeness with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). "So this exhibit really tries to get down to that local level of what is really going on? What can I do about it?"

To answer those questions, Minnesota Humanities Center and the MPCA, in cooperation with four other state agencies, launched the "We Are Water MN" program in 2016.

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At each interactive exhibit stop around the state, collaborations build unique, hyper-local content about water and the culture around it.

"Always unique, always reflecting diverse voices from that community," Gangeness said.

The Somali Museum of Minnesota is hosting this eight-week-long exhibit at the Oren Gateway Center at Augsburg University.

"Somalia has the largest droughts. Most of the largest droughts land in Africa. And a lot of people die because of lack of water," said Osman Ali, founder and executive director of the Somali Museum of Minnesota.  


Ali, a Somalia native, spent 20 years working on drilling and other water solutions in the United Arab Emirates before coming to Minnesota in 1995.

"To work in the water department, because I know that job, he said, 'You forget that there's more than 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. You don't have to drill wells [laughs]!'"Ali said.

Somali Minnesotans share their water stories, along with the how and why behind the lives they've made here.

"It's a cold state. It's snow. It's totally different from where they came from," Ali said. "When they came here, the first folks came here, they got a good opportunity."

"It's a part of their spirituality, their traditions, maybe the history, the reasons for being here in Minnesota and how that weaves together to sort of this rich story about water," Gangeness said.

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Ali is appreciative for the opportunity to immerse in the exhibit and the collaboration to connect through the water that runs through all of us.

"There's a Somali prophet that says, 'Far keliya fool ma dhaqdo,' which is, 'One finger cannot wash your face, but the whole hand can wash your face,'" Ali said.

"We Are Water MN" runs until Aug. 14 at Augsburg University in the Oren Gateway Center. It's free and open Tuesday thru Friday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Somali museum staff are with the exhibit on Saturdays.

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