Winnipegger Ali Saeed uses art and song to bring awareness to plight of political prisoners

Thursday October 13, 2011

Winnipegger Ali Saeed uses art and song to bring awareness to plight of political prisoners

Posted by Andrea Ratuski, SCENE producer

“The Night of the Disappeared” takes place Friday, October 14 at the West End Cultural Centre at 6 p.m.

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Gentil Mis (centre) and Exile.Z performers at The Night of the Disappeared (Ian McCausland)

“Art and culture are so important. Whenever I have pain inside, when I’m disappointed, and I write a poem or sing a song, it’s a kind of relief, it’s a kind of painkiller. When I’m driving and I’m sad about something, I get a nice singing voice and I start singing.”

Ali Saeed is lucky to be alive. After surviving torture in 11 different prisons in Ethiopia and Somalia, Saeed is happily living in Winnipeg. Music helped Saeed through his years as a prisoner. And his music and his poetry now help others as he continues the fight for political prisoners.

Saeed spearheads The Night of the Disappeared, an annual fundraising event designed to raise awareness of political killings and disappearances.

The event includes a traditional vegetarian Ethiopian dinner followed by a number of human rights speakers as well as musicians and dancers from diverse communities.

Performers include the Congolese singer/musician Gentil Mis and his band Exile.Z, as well as Group of 5 Ethiopian Dancers, Aboriginal hoop dancer Mel Starr and local singer Kerri Woelke.

“Art and culture are very important in bringing communities together,” says Saeed. “When we have a gathering like this, we talk about tragedy, people are upset. The event should include happiness and laughter too.” Saeed will share one of his own powerful poems about friendship.

Guest speakers include, Misalee, one of Saeed’s daughters, representing the youth league, Orit Ali, of the International Ethiopian’s Women’s Organization, Janine LeGal, human rights activist, Berhanu Nisganaw of Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners, Louise Simbandumwe of Amnesty International and Hihareg Worki, human rights activist from Toronto.

The event is organized by the Solidarity Commitee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners and is sponsored by Amnesty International – Group 19.

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Ayni Ahmed and Ali Saeed (