With K’naan in Somalia: Photos from the Edge

Poet, rapper and songwriter K’naan has returned to Somalia for the first time since he fled his native land with his family in 1991. Traveling with Sol Guy, his business partner and manager (and National Geographic Emerging Explorer), his mission is to help raise awareness (and relief funding) for millions of starving people. “A life no less valuable than yours and mine. And without any dramatization, without sounding a single bell, we are now at risk of losing 12 million of those ones. In that thought alone, it is remarkable that the world does not come to a halt,” K’naan and Sol said in a statement before their departure for Africa.

Here is their report of what they have found in Somalia. Please follow the link at the bottom to find out how you can help the hunger relief effort.

By Sol Guy

Mogadishu, Somalia — Earlier this month the United Nations announced that the first famine in 20 years was unfolding in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa.  I have a unique connection to the region as one of my best friends and business partners is the Somali-born poet and singer K’naan. It turns out the last time a famine was announced it was in the same region.

How is it possible that in 2011 we find ourselves repeating the mistakes of the past? How can we not rally globally and come up with innovative solutions? We can’t completely plan for  a tsunami or an earthquake, but we can surely be proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to a drought and famine that the people in this region have been warning us about for the past three years.

I don’t want to simplify the solution as Somalia is a complex country, that has had no central government for 20 years. With a civil war raging, the international community found itself unable to engage with the oncoming humanitarian disaster. However, as the situation began to unfold I went through every emotion, from anger and hope to wondering why the world didn’t seem to care. What I realized is that in a world where we see disasters daily and our attention span is minimal, we seem to have become dysfunctional in our ability to help those in need.

So what do we do? We knew we had to do something and realized the best thing we could do was to go to Somalia ourselves, to see what was happening and build our plan from there. We took a trip to humanity’s edge, where opportunity and tragedy walk a razor’s edge.

This would be my brother K’naan’s first trip back to the city of his birth since he fled with his family in 1991 as the country crumbled. Here’s some photos from our trip into Mogadishu. Click on each photo to enlarge them. All photos by Nabil Elderkin.


To go to Mogadishu you need a plan. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Ten years since we dreamed of this day, not under these conditions....but we're here nonetheless. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The longest shoreline in Africa. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Almost home. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


When the world refuses to take notice. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The vibrant colors of an IDP Camp (Internally Displaced Person) in Mogadishu. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The Strength -- Shelled but still standing. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The boys in the hood. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.
Bird's-eye view of the nation of poets and warriors. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The Eyes -- Impossible to look away. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.
A young Somali doctor doing everything he can to help under the most extreme circumstances, explains the needs to K'naan and I at Banadir Hospital, where K'naan was born. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


What is there to say? Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.

Provide Famine Relief in Somalia

Make a donation right now to provide famine relief in Somalia. Neighbors Initiative is a program to strengthen the fabric of local communities by uniting and mobilizing to provide desperately needed humanitarian relief in Somalia. It’s a partnership between the American Refugee Committee and the Somali community. We’ll put your donation to work immediately, bringing life-saving support to families in Somalia. Food, clean water, sanitation, shelter — people really need our help, Neighbors Initiative says on its website. Find out more.



Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Ziad Maddah

    My heart goes out to the famine tragedy that is still going on. No to al-shaman organization that is taking life away.

  • sylvia

    hi k’naan just wandering where is yr donations. we need pictures no smooth talk somalia get hit by famine ..starvation and more…in the need we recognise our real friend…..

  • lynet ncube

    its really heartbreaking the visuals of such a beautiful nation brought down to its knees by hunger and starvation. often as a child, i went to bed hungry and although i can sympathise, i can never fully understand the magnitude of these peoples hunger. im not rich, i dont have money and i dont have a job, but im rich with love, all i can do right now is pray for somalia and offer myself to anyone or any organisation helping out, needing an extra pair of hands, GOD BLESS.

  • Nasir B

    Where’s knaan money and plan. I can’t seem to find your pledge and commitment on google. jus asking bro !!

  • Nasir B

    I can’t seem to find your pledge and commitment on google. jus asking bro !!

  • Emma

    Thank you for having the balls to go back to your homeland in order to spread awareness of the huger and atrocities. Let’s hope those ships that have been dumped in your waters are removed soon. Peace be with you and Somali


    Painful But Needed.
    Thank U

  • PamelaL

    It’s interesting to me that in the shadow of this horrible disaster, people are pointing fingers at each other and accusing them of not doing enough. We should all be doing something, even if it’s enlightening those that need enlightenment.

  • Trudy Hunt

    It’s so easy to critisize isn’t it? This is one man and as He said they are trying to understand the situation and make a plan. As the article stated this is a complex situation with many factors that could affect the outcome.

  • Rhona

    K’naan has brought Somalia into my house and into my heart. As a teacher I now bring their plight to the eyes of my learners. Now we all know! I find it so sad and narrow that people still insist to know how much K’naan is donating and that he’s not doing enough. The fact that we now know and that we care is. I salute him – going back there shows a level of courage beyond the shallow materialism and reach of the 21st century individual!

  • john

    let’s pray all those children are dying .. let’s go to somalia if you can .. somalia we are on side you ever

  • Lazaro Mawe

    Lets create awareness together!!One love

  • ramadhan bilali

    Its so unfortunate that all this is happening in our neighborhood.we harbour the culprits of this warfare elsewhere in our amongst.Lets all first and for all kick them out of us but meanwhile find a better supply for the affected.i am deeply moved by this features.

  • Ken

    I am happy to have participated in a famine relief fund raiser yesterday where we were only a handful of people (not more than 30) and managed to raise about US$46000 . Whereas it may not seem much money as such, I am happy that for every $300 raised, 30 kids/mothers are guaranteed food and clean water for a month. With the awareness brought to the world attention I hope the situation will be handled and contained in the shortest time possible!


    I am deeply sorry the current con what is happening to my brothers and sisters. The leaders should now that allh will hold them what is hppenig in Somalia.

    I strongly believe Somalis will be able to be back on track soon of the world stops their interferance to the Somali internal issues. I want to mk clear that what works in western world( the so called common sence did not work inside Somalia. there is dual sence Somali sence and so-called common sence(western sense)
    In somaliland where there is little international influence sustained more than two decades with peace.

  • Karthik Rajkumar

    Conciously feel sorry for the people.
    I can feel the pain of hunger.
    K’naan & Sol appreciate your efforts in reviving the needy …

  • […] With K’naan in Somalia: Photos from… Aug, 24, 2011 (16) News Watch » […]

  • ann

    I salute you my brother Kanaan.
    You epitomize what is rare in our world. Unsellfishly you look at a problem many just dont blink on,. You have gone back to your roots to genuinely seek advice and put a plan on the table to draft solutions.A lot of us watched your marvelous display in SA last year.You are a true son of the soil.Loads of us in the Diaspora need to take some education from you to emulate on how to reverse some negative trends for the last several decades on our on the continent.
    Thank you brother, may Allah bless your efforts.If each and every one of us africans outside and inside africa did something little , a lot of difference would come out to change the situation we find ourselves in.

  • Omar Farouk

    I salute you brother, I am shamed of those who asked how much you personally donating! What counts is your soul and intention. Forgot sake don’t they realize the awareness you putting out there? how many people you bringing onboard , (in millions)

  • Isabel

    Hungry in Somália is a problem of the intire world, is dificult , but if the instituitions apropriate, help your country … may be better for all of you. And this is possible, guns is more expensible….

  • martoh off cause

    wow k naan
    Yu such a blessing to remember yua roots…i am with u in the mission

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