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Somali Journeys of Belonging by Salym Fayad

April 21, 2017 - June 3, 2017


The photo series features images from three instances of Somali migration. Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, is a starting point for many, but for thousands who have been displaced by violence or drought in other towns or villages, it is one of the early stages in a chain of journeys and temporary homes, where citizens try to carry on with their daily lives with resilience, patience and frustration, in the midst of conflict, risk and rubble.

Dadaab, in northern Kenya, has become the largest refugee camp in the world. It was home to half a million Somalis when drought and the strengthening of extremist militias struck the region in 2012. Many had been in Dadaab for twenty years, since the fall of Mohammed Siad Barre’s government in 1991, when civil war broke out.

The Johannesburg suburb of Mayfair is a place of reference for Somalis starting their route south in Nairobi or Mogadishu. The neighbourhood marks a space where stories of migration and survival interweave with the individual desires and hopes of seeking a better life outside a country shattered by decades of internal conflict. A dynamic, multi-layered site where solidarity, family connections and clan affiliations contribute to recreate spaces and social and cultural practices that were left behind in Mogadishu, Bosaso or Kismayo. But where Somalis also find themselves in a foreign, often hostile environment, where the threat of xenophobic violence is a constant reminder of their condition of urban refugees.

Mogadishu, Dadaab, Mayfair. Final destinations or stages in between journeys; transit points in a chain of relocations. Spaces that are often just temporary stops before heading elsewhere –another city, another country or another continent– in a constant journey fueled by necessity or convenience, but also by that ever-present feeling of buufis, the hope of resettlement that drives Somalis to relocate, move, explore, open up to new and better opportunities somewhere else.


Salym Fayad is an independent reporter and documentary photographer from Bogota, Colombia based in Johannesburg, South Africa since 2008. He has worked extensively in Sub-Saharan Africa covering issues related to music and popular culture, armed conflict, migration and human rights. His work has appeared in media outlets such as The New York Times, Boston Review, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Libération, El Tiempo, among others. His work has been exhibited internationally including New York, Helsinki, Paris, Bogota, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg and Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. He currently works on collaborative multimedia projects documenting the Somali diaspora in Johannesburg and abroad, and about justice and sexual violence in DRC.

He also works on cultural exchange projects related to music and film between Colombia and South Africa, and through the collective Otro Sur. He is currently organizing the second edition of the African Film Showcase in Colombia scheduled for May 2017.

Follow Salym’s travels on social media!
Twitter / Instagram: @salymfayad


April 21, 2017
June 3, 2017


Anacostia Arts Center
1231 Good Hope Road, SE
Washington, DC , DC 20020 United States
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