This is one of six durational interviews upon which the following work is based:
'Love Story,' 2016
Featuring Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore
7-Channel Installation: 7 Hard Drives
Duration: 73 minutes, 42 seconds, loop
The other five interviews featured in this multi-channel installation can be accessed via separate links on this Vimeo page.
What kind of stories are we willing to hear? What kind of stories move us? 'Love Story' interrogates the mechanics of identification and the conditions under which empathy is produced. Evoking the global scale of the refugee crisis, the work evolves out of lengthy interviews with six individuals who have fled their countries in response to a range of oppressive conditions: Sarah Mardini, who escaped war-torn Syria; José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shabeena Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; Luis Nava, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a young atheist from Somalia. The interviews were conducted in the cities where each individual is seeking or has been granted asylum (two in Berlin, two in New York and two in Cape Town).
Interviewee: Farah Abdi Mohamed
Interviewed in Berlin on 18 October 2015
Seeking asylum in Berlin, Germany
Farah Abdi Mohamed was born in Somalia in 1988. His father was killed in tribal conflict while his mother was pregnant with him. Raised by a hardworking single parent in a conservative religious community, he was expected to grow up to be a devout Muslim. As a young child, Farah made immense efforts to “find signs” that might confirm the existence of God. Unable to find such signs, and looking around himself – at the mess of tribal war, poverty and failed nationhood that characterised the Somalia of his childhood – Farah concluded that there could not be a God. His inability to find faith was accompanied by anxiety and fear. It became clear to him at an early age, that it was dangerous to express doubt. A confession of non-belief would, at best, have condemned him to a life of stigma and isolation. At worst, there was a high likelihood that members of his extended family would feel obliged to end his life to prevent him from poisoning the minds of others, in a community in which the death penalty is viewed as appropriate punishment for those who renounce their faith.
Searching online as a teenager, Farah came across words such as ‘atheist’ and ‘atheism’, and was comforted by the discovery that there were others that had lost their faith or failed to find faith. As his English improved – largely via use of the internet – a larger world grew visible to him. His voracious online reading was accompanied by exposure to television series such as 'Lost,' 'Survivor' and 'Grey’s Anatomy,' which piqued his curiosity about life beyond Somalia. When Farah could no longer stand having to feign religiosity and attend prayers five times a day, he ran away to Egypt to study. Finding that conditions were not much better for atheists in Egypt, he gradually came to the decision to risk the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. On his first attempt to leave Cairo, he was captured and thrown into jail for seventeen days. Upon his release (thanks to the intervention of the UNHCR), he paid smugglers to board him onto a rickety fishing boat in Port Said, alongside 322 other refugees, braving a week-long journey across the ocean (for much of which there was insufficient water and food on board) in a desperate bid to get to Germany.
Farah arrived in Berlin in September 2015 and is currently seeking asylum in Germany. He is finally able to speak his mind freely within a new circle of friends. He nevertheless continues to fear for his life, given the conservative religious views prevalent within the Somali community in Berlin. As such, he chose to wear a disguise to conceal his identity for this interview, in which he speaks out publicly for the first time about having left the Islamic faith. 'Farah Abdi Mohamed' is an assumed name.
Duration of interview: 03:32:19