Move over Indiana Jones. There’s a new hero in town.
Actually, this one’s a heroine.
(Image credit: Sada Mire at Academia.edu)
In a country with no government, decades of war, and a terrible famine, Sada Mire braves the chaos. She is the only archaeologist still working to save Somalia’s ancient heritage.
The rock art at Laas Geel displays the imagination of a pastoral people from some 5000-11,000 years ago. Paintings of cattle with no heads and enlarged udders share a curious parallel with European Venus figurines, such as the famed Venus of Willendorf, which show women with minimized heads and exaggerated bosoms. Both, apparently, are symbols of fertility.
(Image credit: SomaliHeritage.org)
Mire works in Somaliland, a breakaway republic in the north that has managed relative peace for some years, though visitors are still required to travel with guards packing AK-47s. Since the territory is not yet internationally recognized, UNESCO is unable to step in. The site is under the jurisdiction of the transitional government in Mogadishu, whose effective power extends little more than a few city blocks. Thus, Mire finds herself alone in her quest.
image credit: Sean McLachlan
Forced to flee Somalia as a child, Mire has returned in an effort to save these monuments from destruction. Dangers include looters working the antiquities market, as well as herders who unwittingly smoke-damage the images by building fires under the rocky outcroppings. Mire strives to preserve the ancient relics, or at least document them before they disappear.
Does this qualify Sada Mire as a hero? For her courage, tenacity, and commitment to ideals, I would say yes.
In this, Mire joins a number of other heroes of war-torn Somalia, such as gynecologist and refugee camp leader Dr. Hawa Abdi, recently lauded as Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine, and her daughter Dr. Deqo Mohammed, who strives to save Somali boys from becoming child soldiers.
It may be a dark time for Somalia, but there are those striving for a new dawn.