Dr Sada Mire, Swedish-Somali archaeologist, art historian, and presenter whose work lobbies and promotes cultural heritage as a basic human need in times of war, has won this year’s Wayfinder Award, as announced by the National Geographic Society.
Wayfinder Award recipients are individuals who have proven themselves to be the next generation of influential leaders, communicators, and innovators whose critical work inspires us to learn about, care for, and protect the wonder of our world.
“On behalf of the National Geographic Society, we’re proud to name these 15 trailblazers as 2023 Wayfinder Award recipients for their exceptional contributions on a local and global scale,” said Alexander Moen, chief explorer engagement officer at the National Geographic Society.
Dr. Sada Mire is a Somali archaeologist, art historian, science communicator, and presenter. She fled Somalia as a refugee, becoming a Swedish citizen, and holds a Ph.D. from University College London’s Institute of Archaeology, where she is serving as Associate Professor of Heritage Studies.
Mire is the first Somali woman to study archaeology, and for over a decade, she was the only trained Somali archaeologist working in Somalia and Somaliland. Mire and her team carried out and published the first and most comprehensive mapping of Somaliland’s archaeology and is the founding director of its Department of Archaeology.
She is also a cultural theorist who believes we need culture in times of war, as articulated in her TED Talk ‘Cultural heritage: a basic human need.’
In 2021, with her book Divine Fertility, she became the first archaeologist of non-European descent to win the SAfA Book Prize. Mire’s other honors include being selected by the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts for their 30 Global Writers and Thinkers for 2017-2027 and the New Scientist magazine list of the Most Inspiring Women in Science of All Time.
She is the founding director of the Horn Heritage Foundation and its Digital Museum, working on research and conservation of heritage across the Horn of Africa.
Mire’s work regularly appears in international broadcast media with her as a presenter, writer, or subject, including in The Guardian, CNN, Current World Archaeology, National Geographic, Vanity Fair Magazine, Channel 4, Futura Channel, the BBC, The Sunday Times, and New Scientist.