U of M student designs Somali stamps to shed light on homeland

- A graduate student at the University of Minnesota is using the power of art to shed some light on a subject that is close to his heart.

His senior project is teaching people about his homeland and raising the possibility of bringing back a much needed institution there.

Most of us take stamps for granted. But for Kaamil Haider, they are a glimpse into a nation's soul.

"With stamps you can tell stories about people, their heritage, their innovations, etc," Haider said.

Haider moved to the United States from war-torn Somalia when he was just six years old.

But when he had to pick a project to get his graduate degree in graphic design at the U, he decided to focus on the country's long lost postal system, which was destroyed by civil war in the early 90's.

"Stamps are a sign of stability, a sign of peace. Somalia hasn't had one since the war which was 1990. So that's nearly three decades without a postage stamp," Haider said.

So not only did Haider showcase stamps from the country's past, he created 56 more of his own, covering everything from Somali animals and artifacts to its alphabet.

Each one has a story, like the national monument to the Somali Youth League, the country's first political party, which helped lead it to independence in the 50's and 60's... or a Gambar, a special stool that has cultural significance.

"The Somali stool is community based in that whenever you go to someone's home, they usually pull out their stool and have the guest sit there and talk before you actually go in the house. Its a way of welcoming people in," Haider said.

Haider's homeland may not have a postal service just yet, but his stamps of Somalia are already getting the seal of approval.

"Some people weren't even aware we had Somali stamps - a lot of young kids - [it's] kind of educational to say we did have them... there's a gap."

Haider has also been in touch with Somalia's ambassador to the United States, and his stamps could eventually be put on display at the Somali Embassy in Washington D.C.

Haider's Instagram page can be found here.

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