Isnino Hamsa, Aisha Abukar, ZamZam Elmoge, Sahro Dakane and Sumaya Mohamed, members of the 21st Century Kids, in front of a mural they painted on the side of the Maine Immigration and Refugee Services building on Bartlett Street in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — A colorful mural created by Lewiston High School students and intended to portray culture and diversity was presented to the community Sunday, and one of the artists, LHS sophomore Zamzam Elmoge, hopes the inviting scene will send a message of “togetherness.”

The members of the mural project by 21st Century Kids — Mahado Abdullahi, Aisha Abukar, Hani Ali, Elmoge, Sahro Dakane, Isnino Hamsa, Nurto Ibrahim, Sumaya Mohamed and Bilane Elmi — completed their third mural on the side of the Maine Immigration and Refugee Services building at 256 Bartlett St.

The first was done on Lisbon St., according to Shannon Martineau, site director for 21st Century at LHS, but it was not created with permanent materials. The second is inside the YWCA.

The mural on the MEIRS building is the result of 12 months of research by LHS students, who dived into immigration’s history in Lewiston.

“The students found a lot of immigrants who came to the area in the 18th and 19th century that had similar experiences of prejudice,” Martineau said. “French people were not allowed to speak their own language.”

Martineau said she was approached by members of MEIRS, who had seen the group’s other murals in the city and asked to be the site of another hopeful image.

Elmoge, also a member of Seeds of Peace, said her favorite part of the project was learning about the different cultures that have come to Lewiston over the years.

“We met a French-Canadian lady, and learned about the old mills,” Elmoge said. “Her dad worked there, and she told us how he was discriminated against. We talked to Jewish women, French and Greek. We went on a tour of Lewiston buildings — that was really cool. It was a hands-on experience.”

In addition to research, Abukar said a good amount of imagination went into the mural.

“We came together and imagined life in another place — one that makes us feel welcome,” Abukar said. “Then we put together that imagined image.”

The mural depicts a park scene with a variety of cultural traditions, displayed by smiling people from all over the world.

“It’s about self-identity and community,” Martineau said. “We hope to show Lewiston’s diverse community, and that it’s OK to have differences and still be a community.”

Abukar also traveled to Denver for the URBAN youth conference, where she presented the mural project to other attendees.

“It’s so important to accept other cultures,” Abukar said. “Only then can people keep where they came from.”

Elmoge echoed the sentiment.

“We need to be aware that we can lose our culture,” she said. “We need to stay with our roots.”

[email protected]

filed under: