Using Archeology to Solve Modern Problems
When talking to Sada Mire, it is clear from the start how important cultural heritage is, and as Sada herself put it: “For me, cultural heritage is a basic human need.” Sada is an archeologist and a former assistant professor of archeology at Leiden University. She is originally from Somaliland but she spent her foundational years in Sweden after her family fled from civil war in 1991. Her international journey then continued to London, UK where she finished her bachelors, masters and her PhD. She has been a presenter at both Tedx and at Hague Talks. Her journey may not seem typical for an entrepreneur but Sada is anything but a typical entrepreneur. Blending academia, humanitarianism, and entrepreneurship, Sada's unique brand fits both with her personal mission and The Hague’s commitment to peace and justice.
After running projects in the Horn of Africa on cultural heritage and development, Sada set up a foundation in the Hague called Horn Heritage. Horn Heritage refers to cultural heritage in the Horn of Africa (the eastern tip of Africa) where Sada spent the majority of her research time working across Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, and Eritrea. The organization is a sister organization to one in Africa under the same name set up in 2011 to work on cultural heritage and archaeological projects in the region. The Hague organization is still in its early stages and is focused on linking with communities but Sada’s ambition to grow and to contribute positively to not only what is happening in the Horn of Africa but the whole world is truly inspiring. Horn Heritage aims to become a resource for education as well as building a founding that can benefit globally while informing locally. Her organization works to preserve and protect cultural heritage from the Horn of Africa while making it also available digitally. In the next five to ten years, Sada hopes Horn Heritage can build a network of communities both in the Netherlands and the Horn that can communicate and create close bonds with one another.
Sada had an award-winning course called “Heritage Under Threat” from Leiden University which she wanted to broaden and differentiate by creating a documentary style course. To do so, she compiled a long list of diverse people to interview and she realized that most of the key people were actually based in The Hague, such as Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor. The key treaty for cultural heritage protection is the 1954 Hague Convention.
After exploring The Hague more, she realized how diverse and interesting of a place the city is beyond the commonly known area of law. Coupled with her international and brilliant students, this epiphany about the value of The Hague made Sada confident that this city housed enough resources in terms of students and expertise to engage with. The Hague just so happened to be the perfect place for Horn Heritage “to take advantage of the fact that [The Hague has] this brilliant community with a mix of governance, academia, and humanitarian work.” Peace and justice are central to Sada and she has worked on projects to promote the rights of minorities in the Horn of Africa focusing on heritage rights, educational programs, and cultural heritage programs. She recently gave the prestigious lecture of the British Academy Global Perspectives: how can archaeology help us navigate a divided world? Sada was attracted to The Hague because of the accessibility and opportunities to work with policy makers, humanitarian organizations, academic communities, and governments all in one central location. One of the projects in Somaliland is funded by ALIPH in 2020-2021, in which Sada will develop Somaliland’s national heritage law with an international team, including experts in The Hague.
The current condition of the world, especially with the COVD-19 pandemic, inspires Sada to keep going. “It comes from a world on fire,” as she puts it. There is growing poverty and a lack of education in many parts of Africa as well as growing conflicts and extremism to highlight a few present issues that inspire her. “For me, it’s all about the present and trying to address the issues of the present by using the past,” explains Sada. She recently published a book, Divine Fertility, as a result of a decade of research on the Horn of Africa where she studied an often overlooked area that is troubled by war and turmoil. The region had been peaceful for 400 years with war breaking out only within the last 40 years. Sada utilizes archaeology to examine how recent consciousness can only think of the war that has prevailed for 40 years rather than how and why it had been a peaceful region for so long. The more Sada talks about the impact the past can have on the present and how her organization can work to facilitate our collective journey, the more her excitement becomes infectious.