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After not seeing each other for months, I was pleased to bump into Deeqa, a long time acquaintance and notable local reggae singer. During that brief encounter, to my surprise, she mentioned how she had just recently found her family after having being separated from them for almost 20 years! Intrigued by this sudden confession, I naively replied, “20 years? Wow!” In that moment, I thought to myself: how did she loose her family in the first place, and how was it that she wasn’t unable to find them for almost two decades? Taking a moment to piece everything together, I realized that Deeqa was Somalian and wondered whether she had been separated from her family during the civil war of the 1990s. Two weeks later, we sat down to talk about her amazing life story, from growing up in the beautiful seaside city of Mogadishu to her harrowing journey as an unaccompanied minor, to Canada.
While still young, Deeqa, who displayed extraordinary musical talents at a very young age, and who at one point even sang for the President of her country, was invited by her music teacher to go on a musical tour with other young music students. Accompanied by her teacher and fellow choir members, Deeqa left home to go on a trip that she expected would only last a few days. As fate would have it, while away, the war in Somalia broke out, and as a result, she was unable to return home to Mogadishu, due to a block in the road. She, therefore, along with her teacher and fellow companions, were forced to flee by boat to Kenya, where they were received by members of Doctors Without Borders. After living in a refugee camp for some time, she, through the assistance of French volunteers, was sent to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she would spend the rest of her adolescent years learning English and successfully completing a degree in Education.
Since leaving Somalia, Deeqa has tried desperately to make a home for herself in Canada. Although she has now lived in Canada for most of her life, her heart and soul remain very much connected to her homeland. This connection has only been strengthened in the past two months by the miraculous events that have reconnected her with her family in Mogadishu. Since leaving Somalia in the early 1990s, the whereabouts of her family were unknown to her, until early this year when she received a phone call from her nephew in England, who had seen a video of her singing on youtube. It didn’t take long before she had a chance to finally speak to her whole family on the phone.
In the end, through a weird twist of fate, as she said: “It was music that took me away from my family, and it was music that helped them find me again.” Music has played an important role in Deeqa’s life. While here in Canada, away from her family, her friends and her homeland, music was the only thing that; taught her to persevere when she felt like giving up, that gave her hope when she felt defeated, and that allowed her to stay positive in times of loneliness. Through music, she found a way to stay connected to her cultural roots, while also allowing her to make strong friendships here in Canada.
Although it is clear that Deeqa has been deeply and emotionally affected by some of the challenges that she has had to face as a young refugee who came to this country on her own, she has worked hard to make the most of every opportunity that she has been given, and continues to hope for a better future for both her and her family. It is this strength and this willingness to remain positive that I found to be truly inspirational, and which I know will empower her to continue to work to be reunited with her family. In the coming months she hopes to, for the first time since she left, finally return to Africa to see her family, after what has truly been a long journey away from home.
To visit Empress Deeqa's website go to: http://www.myspace.com/empressdeeqa
Written by: Gracia Dyer Jalea
Interview with Empress Deeqa Ibrahim
Conducted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Interviewer: Gracia Dyer Jalea
Videographer: Liz Miller