Winning essay captures unique sense of home in Somalia

Monday, September 9, 2019

An architecture grad student’s winning paper illustrates the paradoxes of Somali nomadism and the desire for a temporary hut to be a home.

During a trip to Somalia to discover her family's roots, Amal Dirie was so emotionally taken by the country's nomadic dwellings that she featured them Amal Diriein an essay titled The Idea of Home and Belonging. Her illustrated piece won a Certificate of High Merit in the 2019 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) International Prize Scholarship competition and is now the basis of her master's thesis.

Amal Dirie visited her mother's homeland of Somalia in 2018 and 2019

Dirie, a 2017 alumnus of Waterloo’s undergraduate architecture program, says it took a number of years to save up enough money to travel to the country where her mother was raised and “her heart and mind remain.”

Before her visit to Somalia last summer, Canadian-born Dirie says she had never really explored her African roots.

“I was very curious to know about this country I’d never been to,” she says. “I had no concept of it. I would just tell people that’s my background, but I don’t know much about it.”

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