In this third episode, we catch up with Rami Hara in Brussels. The Belgian-Somali photographer tells us how he deconstructs stereotypes about the African Diaspora by drawing inspiration from editorial photography.
A joyful clamor rises from the Jeu de Balle, the famous Marolles flea market in the Belgian capital. Among the shopkeepers and passers-by, Rami Hara weaves his way between art deco lamps, vinyl boxes, crystal glasses, globes, clocks and trinkets of all kinds, in search of the old cameras he loves to haggle over.
It is in this ever-evolving neighborhood that the young photographer is based, having previously lived in Antwerp, Saudi Arabia, and Mogadishu, the capital of his native country of Somalia.
“It’s a little bit corny but I would like to impact people’s lives in a positive way, especially people who look like me, and use my work to uplift my community and give them something that they can look back to and they can remember where they come from and have a sense of pride,” says the 28-year-old artist, whose portraits of Afro-descendants are exhibited at FOMU in Antwerp and at Brakke Grond in Amsterdam.
In his apartment, he receives his models, who are people he approaches in the street or on Instagram. They talk and share some of their experiences, including their confrontations with racism. Rami Hara arranges his set with loose, iridescent, pearly, or sparkling fabrics from Somalia and elsewhere. Textiles are a very important part of his work, functioning at once as decoration, subject, and symbol to talk about the African diaspora.
In the delicate Do-rag series, he highlights the beauty of the durag, a hair accessory used by Black women and men and which is too often associated with violence and gangs. In Hooyo, he honors his religion, Islam, along with his mother, the muse of the series. By exploring the various shades and colors of the veil, he challenges the uniform image of veiled women in the media. By hiding the faces of his models, he focuses attention on the veil as a garment that conveys emotion through the wearer’s choice of fabric and color.
“Many African countries have lost big parts of their history due to colonization (…) If you lose your history, you lose your sense of self and the pride of your ancestors,” he explains, in reference to an ongoing project that documents his family’s history in Somalia and the countries to which they immigrated.
Initially from the world of street photography, influenced by editorial photography, and passionate about Japan, Rami Hara takes us into a sensitive universe where refined aesthetics don’t allow us to forget the battles that remain to be fought—quite the contrary.
The film Young European Photographers, Episode 3: Rami (Belgium) was shot in July and August 2022 in Brussels and Antwerp. It was produced by Blind Magazine and Phantastica Pictures, and directed by Charlotte Jean and Quentin Molinié.