Artist Provocation: Aliyah Hasinah

Since the 1980s, tonnes of toxic and nuclear waste has been dumped in 8 coastal areas bordering Somalia. This waste has been dumped by Italian, German and French power plants, as reported by Greenpeace. Not only has this destroyed the ecology of the seas in which the waste has been dumped, but also devastated the local food economy and stunted environmental growth in the vicinity.

It is within this context, out of desperation and a means of survival, that a rise in piracy began to occur on the Somali coast, although this is far from the headlines that made newspaper rounds and Hollywood blockbusters in 2012. Ultimately, we were told an edited version of the story.


The trees whisper a little quieter these days

Tired of asking for water,

shrivelling into dry dirt


This scorched earth smells of white saviours and

3 minute

side-man news reports.

A famine. An afterthought.

There are of course many questions.

Why was the waste dumped in that specific location? Was the instability of the government being exploited? Why wasn’t the ‘Somali Pirate’ phenomenon contextualised in western media? What have been the effects of continual nuclear waste exposure over the last 30 years?

And more importantly why haven’t we heard (have they even gotten airtime?) the stories from Somali journalists, civilians and those affected first hand by this environmental disaster? Where are those lenses?

Truth is often associated with facts and scientific reason. The term ‘logic’ also gets bounced around. It is not usually associated with paradox, or concerned with the idea of multiple truths.

But who’s lens of the truth gets labelled as the truth?  - Of course there are things that are 100% true i.e. Global Warming is not a myth… clean coal, however, is. Or is it all subjective?

If truth is absolute, who gets to define it? Are the truths told by the West more important? Is that neo-colonialism?
This proverb springs to mind: (There are variants of this proverb across the African continent - multiple truths, takes, narratives - as Africa is not a one size fits all continent as its media portrayal may lead you to think).

Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter
— Igbo Proverb

Who holds the power for a truth to be considered legitimate?

My thinking around this provocation was very much centred around the process of questioning what we accept as truth and what is fed to us as true; as reality, as concrete. I’m interested in the idea of historiography (the study of histories, plural), whose narratives get air time and why? Are they really true or are we being told they are for another reason? Every story adds to the eco-system of building context.

I ask a lot of questions, I know. The point of this blog and my provocation is to push us all to ask more questions about the truths we’re told to ensure stories are collated in a healthier more holistic fashion, in a decolonial fashion.

Can we focus on our stories instead of his story?

Aliyah is one of the Lead Artists working on TEDxSkoll, who have been commissioned to create a new piece of work in response to the theme of Truth. We know that artists play a key role in challenging our interpretations and preconceptions of the world around us, and have the power to make us think and feel differently on topics that are vast or intangible. For this reason, provocations from Aliyah and 3 further artists will be on display at TEDxSkoll, as well as featuring on our blog in the run up to the day. They will also be curating a publication to accompany the event, featuring their findings, along with artwork collated from an open submission process.