Somalia Like Never Before!: By Suaad

Somalia, is one of Africa’s most culturally homogeneous countries, besides being one of the richest countries in the world with considerable oil reserves, long coastlines and exotic marine wildlife, but these days Somalia reminisces about life before the war while coming out of its troubling past, a past that has kept a few of the country’s best at bay.

Artistically, someplace, a discourse has begun about how photography can be used as a tool to speed up the process of change in Somalia, as well as healing, and this has caused certain creatives to turn their lens toward the disenfranchisement and grappling areas of their homeland in other to raise awareness about what new joys can be found in the place, and the need to pay home a visit. Because, at the end of the day, everyone just wants to sit with people that they love and chat about what matters and what doesn’t matter. It is easy to forget that the sweetest joys are found in the simplest acts: a warm hug, loud laughter, solemn observation, movement in unison, holding of hands, sweet music, stories retold, a listening ear and volunteerism. That is what home feels like, it feels like visiting your own life because anywhere else could mean that you are spending much time in other people’s lives. 

Random Photo Journal created a Journal Project focused on African unification through collective memories and we reach out to frequent travellers around the African continent and ask them to share a series of photos that represent a memory about a place they visited, currently or in the past, attached with a story that led to why they made such photos. This project is an experimental medium that seeks to include, more than those on the continent, but those who are in diaspora and visit frequently or RANDOMLY, to share their own stories about returning, either as a form of reconnection or for friends and family.

Hello Suaad and welcome to Random Photo Journal! Start off with an introduction about yourself. What you do and what got you started on your photo-documenting journey?

Hi, my name is Suaad and I’m a Toronto-based photographer. I was born and raised in Toronto, however, I’ve travelled and lived in different parts of the world. I’m currently a student at George Brown College and I’ve always been obsessed with the sky. The many ways its changes from sunrise to sunset, to the different hues and the gloominess in the sky after heavy rainfall, or how animated the clouds would look on a bright sunny day. I’ve always wanted to take photos that would give my audience a sense of deja-vu, to capture the moment as if they’ve gone through it themselves. 

Can you take us back to the summer when you visited Somalia, what inspired it?

Ironically, it was my mother who inspired me to visit home. Had it not been for her pleading with me to have the experience, I probably wouldn’t have found the time of day. You know, because being a student is very stressful and I just wanted to enjoy my summer in an environment that I’m familiar with and also with my friends. However, I thought about it for a couple of days and I told myself maybe I wouldn’t get an opportunity like this next summer. I also thought about meeting my grandmother for the first time as well as my aunties and uncles. I have to say that another reason why I went was that I wanted to capture Somalia in a way that no one has ever before. 

What message do you intend to get across to the public with your visual work?

My main objective is to capture the beauty of my homeland and the message is to let the diaspora youth remove the fear and trauma keeping them from visiting home. That’s my message. However, my photos are captured in a way where they have messages of their own and are open for their own interpretation. 

How long have you been a visual artist?

I would want to say that I’ve been a visual artist since the age of 13 when I would use my mother’s cellphone to capture photos of the sunsets, but realistically I would say 8 years. 

Are there other photographers whose work you enjoy or love to take references from? / In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

Honestly, there are a lot of great photographers whose work I enjoy but one specific photographer stood out to me. When I look at his photos, it ignites a memory I didn’t even have. Which I believe is the definition of a great photographer, to bring images to life right? His Instagram is Osmanao.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you will like everyone to know about or show us where to find more of your work? 

Everyone can follow my Instagram where I view most of my work. I have a few projects that I’m working on which I will be dropping the dates via Instagram and also my website release date!