New local magazine 1991 celebrates Somali culture worldwide

Somali-Swedish singer Sherihan “Cherrie” Hersi

Somali-Swedish singer Sherihan “Cherrie” Hersi Cover images by Ejatu Shaw; product photo by Ridwan Omar

“It’s a magazine on a zine budget.”

1991 Issue 001 Launch Party

Public Functionary

That’s how Safy-Hallan Farah describes 1991, the new Somali culture magazine that launches at Public Functionary this Friday. Farah has assembled a team of international Somali writers, artists, and designers for the project from all over the world.

A Minneapolis-based writer, Farah got her start in 2011 as an intern for the literary zine Paper Darts. That same year, she published a few pieces with an arts and culture blog called This Recording, and over the next two years published pieces in Gawker and Vice.

Farah refers to both of those national bylines as “flukes,” with the editors reaching out to her through social media to write on particular topics. “I didn’t know that I could make money and build a career from [freelancing],” she says.

Now, Farah is a full-time freelancer, with bylines in Vogue, New York Times, GQ, and The Guardian.

For 1991, Farah envisioned a culture magazine much like the publications she writes for, but with its own unique look and feel. “I had a lot of aesthetic inspirations as far as how I wanted it to look,” she says. “Ultimately it ended up looking more unique to us -- honestly I can’t think of a publication I would compare our publication to, and that’s probably a good thing.”

Photo by Ridwan Omar

Photo by Ridwan Omar

The magazine focuses on writing about culture, rather than being a literary publication. “We do have poetry pieces that were turn into visual art pieces,” Farah says. “That was a deliberate choice. We really want this to be a culture magazine.”

While Farah came up with the concept for 1991, she says it was a team effort with her collaborators. “It’s our vision,” she says. “We had an idea of what we wanted before we even got started.”

The team featured on the masthead all had creative control on some level. That being said, Farah says for the next issue, she’s hoping to not oversee as much as she did for this piece. “This took a lot of my time actually,” she says. “I’m still learning to delegate tasks.”

Among the contributing editors is Aamna Mohdin, a London-based writer whose cover story features the Somali-Swedish singer Sherihan “Cherrie” Hersi (the most popular Somali artist at the moment, according to Farah— even though most of her British and American fans can’t understand her Swedish lyrics). “[Mohdin’s story on Cherrie is] on par with anything you’d read at Glamour or Elle,” she says.

Also in the inaugural issue is an interview with Raamla Mohamed, who has written for shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. “She just inked an overall deal with ABC,” Farah says.

There’s also an interview with LGBTQ Somali-British fiction writer Diriye Osman, as well as a piece by award-winning Somali-American writer Sofia Samatar.

For the launch party, Farah thought of hosting a reading and a panel, “but that didn’t feel very party like,” she says. Instead, Friday night will have music, including a performance by hip-hop group Tribal East.


1991 publication party

7-10:30 p.m. Friday, November 23
Public Functionary
1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
$6 online/$10 door
Find tickets at
IG: @1991zine.