Creating a country’s identity

August 1, 2017
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider
  • a stamp by Kaamil Haider

Kaamil Haider designed a total of 56 stamps in 5 categories: Historical and national monuments; regional/state maps; the alphabet of the Somali language; religious and cultural artifacts; and common animals found in Somalia.

How do you create a country’s identity? For recent U of M graphic design graduate Kaamil Haider, it starts with a postage stamp.

Haider’s senior exhibit, “Stamps of Somalia: Illuminating a Nation,” explored Somalia’s design style through the creation of 56 original postage stamps depicting everything from Somali national monuments, its alphabet, and even its animals.

The only problem: Somalia doesn’t have a postal service.

Haider left Somalia when he was just 6 years old, and the civil war that tore that country apart took much with it, including its postal service.

His stamps are both a vision for the country and a reminder of its rich history and culture.

“Though small, stamps are primary ingredients in building a state and unifying a group of people. With a stamp, you speak visually to the world and say ‘this is who we (as a nation) are,’” says Haider.

With his degree fresh in hand, Haider now works as a graphic designer for Soomaal House of Art—a Minnesota-based Somali art collective he co-founded in 2014 that provides studio space, an artistic community, and role models and mentors to young Somali artists.

The stamp exhibit (which he is working on exhibiting at the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C.) and the art collective go hand-in-hand. While Haider no longer lives in Somalia, he maintains a vision for that country and its people, no matter where they are.

“Somalia is rebuilding itself and design and art are at the core of it. As Somalia assumes leadership in its political affairs and efficacy, we need to remember that every one of us is responsible for imagining ways we can help rebuild,” says Haider.

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A version of this story originally appeared on the College of Design blog.