Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Friends February 27, 2015

Portrait 9: Nimo and Nasteho

Friends, Nimo, left, and Nasteho.

Friends, Nimo, left, and Nasteho.

“They assume I’m a terrorist.”

I’ll always remember that statement shared with me 2 ½ years ago by a then high school senior who asked me to photograph her and a friend at the International Festival Faribault.

Nasteho, a native of Kenya, posed with Nimo for this beautiful portrait of the pair. They were among students volunteering at the fest.

What Nasteho told me that August day in 2012 broke my heart. She’d been subjected to ongoing insults from a customer in her workplace, felt stares at the grocery store, been flipped the bird while driving. All because of the way she dressed, her skin color and her ethnicity.

“There is no respect for Somalis,” she concluded.

I couldn’t disagree with her. I’d heard the negative comments, too, about Faribault’s newest immigrants.

Despite the outright prejudice Nasteho had already endured at such a young age, she did not appear bitter or angry, only desiring of respect and understanding. She seemed wise beyond her years. Poised. Thoughtful. Well-spoken.

I recall thinking, if only those who hold disdain for Somalis could meet Nasteho. They would see her as the beautiful, young and spirited woman I photographed.

It is the personal connections that bridge differences. I believed that then. I still believe that now.


This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


27 Responses to “Minnesota Faces: Friends”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    Every segment of society has their issues and stereotypes. I don’t believe in painting with such a wide brush. For the most part, people in general; regardless of race, are decent human beings. It is the exceptions that fuel the fire and bring hate to the forefront. Some people just cannot look beyond the exceptions and remain hyper-focused on them.

  2. Nothing more fatal to bigotry than personal connections, I agree, which is why I feel travel is so important.

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Absolutely! Lovely photo, important story.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    I so agree. Personal relationships do much to dispel/soften negative stereotypes but the underlying “driver” of these feelings—FEAR—-won’t go quietly. It merely retreats into the shadows until that next unfortunate soul comes along who ‘fits’ the parameters/demographics and that ‘demon’ rears its ugly head. “Guilt by association” perhaps is a fitting description of the behavior that’s exhibited. Association with a group that doesn’t seem to be human in its “life goals”/reasons for existence and that has had media coverage so that no one is exempt from the knowledge of their activities. To think that those wonderful girls would be/could be anything like “those” who perpetrate such monstrosities is not beyond the realm of possibility, given the published specters of young children (young “innocents”) wrapped in a bomb laden belt or vest. This is something I find difficult, nay impossible, to ‘wrap my mind around’!
    Thank you, Audrey, for, once again, bringing to the fore the truth that we must not ‘judge’ based on appearance only but must maintain a balance of wisdom imbued with His heart and Spirit.

  5. Marneymae Says:

    This post, your work is of great value

  6. Almost Iowa Says:

    While there are those who make our new neighbors feel unwelcome, there are also those who open their arms to welcome them.

    Here is a short immigrant story to help put things in perspective. My great grandparents immigrated to Chippewa Falls, Wisc from Germany. They spoke only German when they arrived but it didn’t matter because everyone in town spoke German.

    On April 2, 1917, the United State declared war on Germany. The next day, the German language was forbidden. I cannot say whether this was by law or by community consensus – but those who could not speak English, could not speak in public.

    Germans are the largest ethnic group in Minnesota and Wisconsin and for much of the last century, they have lost sons and lived with people who had lost sons to wars with Germany.

    It is something to keep in mind when we think about “others”.

  7. Great follow up from yesterday’s post – love your last sentence 😉 Getting to know someone before judging them is a great way to bridge, grow and experience. Happy Weekend!

  8. Norma Says:

    My husband’s uncle Dan was living in Montana during WW2. He changed his name to Smith during that time. Being of German ancestry, his looks, and language fit right in to the American neighbors and people that didn’t know that he was a Schmidt.

  9. hotlyspiced Says:

    It’s true, there are so many very good and wonderful Muslims who mean us no harm at all. And that’s honourable and they are more than welcome to live in the West and be part of our societies. But yesterday I saw on video, footage of the 220+ Christians in Syria who have been captured by ISIS and each Christian (man, woman and child) was put in a cage on the back of individual trucks and driven through streets that were crowded with Muslims clapping and cheering at the ‘parade’. These Christians are facing a horrific and barbaric and savage and brutal end to their lives and this persecution against believers, is extremely confronting. I think Christians and Westerners and Jews have been and are being, very good at ‘turning the other cheek’. But as these brutalities committed by Muslim extremists are escalating, my concern is that they are doing no favours to the peaceful Muslims who have chosen to live in our communities. I think that at some point in the future, there will be retaliation and I wouldn’t want to see it directed in the wrong places, as in, towards the women you have photographed who are not a part of what is happening but who represent the name in which these atrocities are being committed xx

  10. Deanna Says:

    Nicely stated, Audrey.

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