Somali-American Painter Draws Somalia Before the War

Aziz Osman of Colombia heights has been quietly painting gorgeous drawings of Somalia before the war. His work is displayed in public and private spaces across the twin cities. Vibrant paintings by Aziz can be found in Hennepin county Medical Center in Minneapolis, Thrivent financial services building and The African development center in Cedar riverside just to name a few.

Aziz migrated to Minnesota in 1991 escaping a war torn Somalia to find a better life for him and his family. As an Italian educated painter, after arriving in Minnesota, Aziz had the urge to paint but did not have the money to buy supplies. So he improvised, Aziz used anything from Cereal Boxes, to shipping containers to create art he could sell. As a parking attendant during the day, Aziz found a small market for his very low budget paintings.

“I want to remind these kids where they come from, to tell them: You have a lot of treasure,” said the soft spoken artist. Aziz paints murals and oil canvasses of scenes from back when Somali was peaceful. One of his main motivations is to keep the Somali American youth informed on how Somalia used to be and what it could be if we can all just get along.

The fourth annual Somali Entertainment award named Aziz its best professional artist at the cedar cultural center in the summer of 2016.

At the age of 67, Aziz looks energetic and full of life. He insists that all his paintings have a purpose and for some, it is a reminder of the good old peaceful days in Somalia.

Aziz, one of seven children who grew up in Mogadishu, has a very vivid memory of his father who played a major role in the Somali independence in the 1960s. Aziz grew up fond of drawing and painting. His favorite childhood memories included putting together sketches of his fellow classmates, neighbors and relatives.

As he graduated high school, Aziz went to Italy to pursue a degree in Architecture. As a young adult, Aziz started exploring his hobby of painting and was greatly influenced by the Italian painters like Caravaggio and Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1975, Aziz realized that his love for art needed to be sharpened and that’s when he attended the Academy of Fine arts in Florence, Italy. Aziz started travelling around Europe displaying his art in different exhibits and enjoyed the adventure that came with it.

In the late 1980s, Aziz returned back to Somalia after feeling homesick in Italy. Soon after, in December 1990, the infamous Somali civil war broke out and Aziz and his family had to find their new home. Aziz’s memory of the war as so unbelievable that he started painting pictures of what Somali looked like before the war. His paintings drew attention from other Somali diaspora which kept Aziz motivated to keep painting images of “the Somali we knew” as he puts it.

Aziz currently paints on demand as he gets orders from local organizations, hospitals, counties and private citizens to perform customized work. He currently has small inventory available for sale to the public.

Anyone interested in purchasing Aziz’s work or order a custom paint may contact Somali American at 612-216-2415 or email

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