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With Affirmation Cards, Muslim Artist Promotes Love, Foster Connection

Hoping to promote foster connections, St. Cloud Muslim teacher, writer and poet Anisa Hagi-Mohamed will release the world’s first set of Somali affirmation cards soon.

Carrying a traditional Somali or American phrase in Somali and English, the colorful rectangular cards deck is called Kalsooni, which has several meanings in Somali.

“Kalsooni a lot of the times is used [to refer to] self-esteem, good self-esteem, confidence,” Anisa, who lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, said, Mogadishu Online reported.

“Another reason I called it Kalsooni is that it really honors the collective spirit of Somalis. We do things in groups, we do things in big numbers and so Kalsooni can be for myself and for you.”

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Some of these cards have characters that reference traditional homes and objects people would use and see in Somalia. According to Anisa, the cards can be used in an introspective or interactive way, and are designed to be shared.

“I wanted an educational component on it. Maybe it’s my teacher side coming out, but also I feel like with [our] diaspora, we are so disconnected from our culture sometimes. And there’s barriers there, there’s shame, there’s embarrassment, there’s may be feeling like you don’t belong. Maybe you are still trying to figure out your identity,” she said.

“I included this to bring people in and say, ‘Hey, this is your culture, claim your culture, claim your language, it’s yours. It was always yours.”

With Affirmation Cards, Muslim Artist Promotes Love, Foster Connection - About Islam

Creating Conversations

The cards started with posts about her life on social media. This summer, she was nominated for and received $11,000 grant to fund her affirmation cards project. She hopes her cards would create conversations around mental health in her community.

“We are still dealing with that stigma of mental health. And that’s the primary reason I created these cards… to help people share and unpack their experiences,” Anisa said.

“It’s to create an impact in my community, to talk about mental health a little bit more in spaces that it’s not talked about, like the mosque, like at schools, with nonprofit organizations. I want to just put this in the hands of people who are going to use it.”

St. Cloud, the state’s 10th-largest city, increased in population by 33 percent over the last 30 years, to roughly 70,000 people, NY Times reported.

The share of nonwhite residents grew to 18 percent from 2 percent, mostly with East African immigrants from Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, and the numbers of Somalis are estimated to grow.