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SITAAD is a platform and artistic-collaboration initiated by archivists Leyla Degan and Naima Hassan in 2022. Deriving their name from a type of devotional gathering organised by Somali women, sitaad as practice represents the sum that (de)occupies their artistic habitation of colonial sites, museums, and archives. SITAAD’s border-thinking is situated in the geographies of Soomaaliya Talyaani, Ingiriiska iyo Faransiiska (former Italian, British, and French Somaliland). Engaging the shadows cast by colonialism, they experiment with analogue formats, artistic methods, feminist epistemologies and Xirsi, a clandestine Somali practice of protection. They have organised and participated in residencies, exhibition presentations, public programmes and fellowships in international settings. Currently, they are 2023-24 Hub Residencies Fellows, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota in association with Soomaal House of Art. In the course of the fellowship, they aim to develop a socially-engaged and pedagogical framework for their long-term project Transmigrating Cassettes. SITAAD reside in Italy and Germany.

Leyla Degan
Xirsi 2024
© SITAAD Archive



Participation in Tate Symposium and Festival:
The Archive is a Gathering Place

Publish date: May 2024

Tate Modern
25 May

Letters to Giorgio and Mohamed: Entangled Biographies and Xirsi as a Counter-Archival Method

The presentation by SITAAD (Leyla Degan and Naima Hassan) weaves together historical sound recordings, archival traces, bureaucratic records, and critical fabulations themed on the Somali-Italian partisan Giorgio Marincola and Somali ethnographic performer and linguist Mohamed Nur.

Responding to The Archive is a Gathering Place, SITAAD proposes a mode of gathering in the archive through the concept of sitaad, a type of devotional gathering organised by Somali women. Using analogue formats to produce an aural remembrance, the sonic presentation invokes Xirsi as a counter-archival method and introduces the familiar audiocassette as an archival instrument.

The  series is the second volume in SITAAD’s Transmigrating Cassettes project. The Archive is a Gathering Place is hosted by Tate Research and curated by Vasundhara Mathur.

Tate: Full programme and tickets

Publication for Afterall:
Notes on dark archives

Publish date: March 2024

Notes on dark archives: Transforming colonial photographs using alternative analogue processes

University grounds, Madison, New Jersey,  2023. © SITAAD Archive

In this essay for Afterall, SITAAD reflect on their methodology for transforming a series of photographs, archival traces and bureaucratic records associated with a Somali ethnographic performing troupe who arrived on a french iron steamship to Ellis Island Immigration Station in 1914.

Departing from Erica Scourti’s concept of Dark Archives (2015), SITAAD engages the shadows cast by colonial archives by invoking Xirsi, a clandestine Somali practice of protection, and experimenting with analogue formats. Testing the concept and limits of opacity, the duo explore their use of cyanotypes and audiocassettes, partially developed through archival research and participatory workshops held in New York City and Minneapolis in 2023.

Through the lens of colonial botany and plantation economies, the cyanotype as a counter archival method is weighed against the ghost of early photographic proccesses which reiterated the racial logic of colonial policies. In doing so, SITAAD examine the limits of using analogue processes that first ‘rendered’ colonial subjects. Speculating on community-led circulations of colonial archives, they discuss new potentials for institutional collections typically preserved as static repositories with settled narratives.  

Afterall: Online issue

Fellowship Announcement
University of Minnesota and Soomaal House of Art

Publish date: August 2023

Hub Residencies 2023-24: College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

SITAAD was a recipient of 2023-2024 Soomaal House Archive Fellowship with generous support from the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub and Minnesota Transform.

In partnership with Soomaal House of Art and the Immigration History Research Center Archives, SITAAD undertook an archive-focused residency in the summer of 2023, working closely with Kaamil A. Haider, archivist and co-director of Soomaal House of Art.

About the project
Transmigrating Cassettes is a sonic container for SITAAD research interventions on dispersed colonial collections. It instrumentalises the audio cassette as an archival and discursive tool.

The first cassette series examines Augustus F. Sherman’s photography collection of Somali passengers who arrived from French Somaliland to Ellis Island Immigration Station in 1914. With the guidance of Soomaal House of Art, SITAAD will undertake collections research on the seventy-five Somali passengers, who are described in official bureaucratic records as a performing troupe who arrived for exhibition purposes. The troupe’s arrival, performances, detainment, and eventual deportation, are contained in collections across the United States. To engage the public, SITAAD will host workshops and symbolic gatherings in Minneapolis and NYC. The volume is developed with research support and guidance from Kaamil A. Haider, director of Soomaal House Library & Archive Center, and  Louis Takács, initiator of the project Let Me Get There: Visualizing immigrants, transnational migrants & U.S. citizens abroad, 1904-1925.

Future iterations of the project will investigate Somali participation in the economies of international colonial exhibitions in new geographies in association with practitioners, communities, collectives, and institutions. The cassettes will map sonic strategies for transmuting colonial histories in the present and coalesces into a symphonic archive on Somali performing troupes and their itinerant trajectories across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.

In 2024, SITAAD will endevour to make accessible Vol.1 tapes through public presentations and closed circulations.

University of Minnesota: read more

Transmigrating Cassettes Visualiser © SITAAD Archive

Residency Announcement: Neither on Land nor at Sea Cittadellarte – Foundazione Pistoletto 

Publish date: May 2023

Artistic Residency Programme: Biella, Italy

© Chiara Cartuccia, Neither on Land nor at Sea, UNIDEE Residency Programs, Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto. 

SITAAD participates in residency Neither on Land nor at Sea  to develop their ongoing research and practice exploring Mediterranean complexities and geographical thinking, with attention to Somali mobilities.

Neither on Land nor at Sea invites to meander around unreducible complications and on shifting grounds, to explore together ways in which geography is historically, socially, and politically produced. The project pluralises Mediterranean concepts/spaces as sites of worldmaking and experimentation in communal living. To do so, it adopts un-grounded geographies and colliding historicities as meeting places, in which to congregate to elaborate on the role played by situated practices and shared processes in the promotion of social transformations, towards epistemic justice.

Neither on Land nor at Sea, research project by UNIDEE Residency Programs at Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto initiated by Chiara Cartuccia.

Neither Land nor at Sea: read more