Fati Abubakar: Storytelling Through The Lens Of A Camera
34-year-old Fati Abubakar, a photographer, nurse and a humanitarian worker from Borno state, took a bold step at the time of suzerainty and onslaught by the group Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad notably known as Boko Haram.
Born and raised in Maiduguri, Borno state’s capital, her decision to tell untold narratives of her hometown in constructive ideals, through the eyes of a camera has helped the world see the real outcome of the place. After her Master’s Degree in Public Health and Health Promotion, at the South Bank University, London in 2015, Fati, upon her return back to her hometown, where she took up photography.
The Accidental Photojournalist as she has nicknamed herself focuses on showcasing health challenges, community challenges, life in IDP camps, and other humanitarian issues.
She shot to fame after capturing the ancient city of Yarwa, notably know as Kanem Borno dynasty in a subtle mode, as her plan to show the world the other side of her community, and posting it on social media.
The iconic series titled “Bits of Borno: Bruised, Not Broken” became a sensation across Nigeria and among international audiences. The photo series show subjects ranging from the young and the old, from traders to farmers and myriad contour of photos from different angles. “Bits of Borno” subtly erased the stereotype and prejudices towards Maiduguri and its inhabitant, communicating that people are living in tranquillity despite the conflict.
Some of her photos were taken during the disrupted Eid celebration. She wrote in AlJazeera, “And everywhere I went, children followed. They wanted to be photographed. Many were displaced in camps or on the streets but were happy, exuberant, despite the hardship. I focused my lens on their experiences, on being a child in this crisis and yet able to find moments of joy.”
“This photo [referring to one of her photos for a series titled ‘Eid Fashion’] illustrates how we celebrate being alive in the spirited way that we observe a prominent Islamic holiday. This picture tells me not only to live for the present but to enjoy it – well dressed and to the fullest – because who knows what tomorrow will bring?”
Since then, she has exhibited her works at several festivals including Ake Arts and Book Festival, Art X Lagos, Harn Museum of Art, Soze Gallery and Photobastei, Zurich, Switzerland. Her works have now been published in several international media outlets including New York Times, Financial Times, Council on Foreign Relations, Glamour, and Voice of America.
The Guardian Life asked her two pertinent questions on virality and perception:
Did you know “Bits of Borno” will go viral?
I never imagined it will go viral or saw it as a project that would draw international attention. It was unexpected and overwhelming but thankfully most of it has been positive. It is an important story and I am glad it became viral. A different way of viewing the conflict was needed at that time.
Have your photos had the change you hoped it will?
Yes, there are many changes. The image people have of Borno evolving was wonderful to see. Many people have donated clothes and cash to the displaced via the page and it has been a tremendous help. I’m glad to see the empathy. I am amazed by the response and how supportive people have been considering how challenging it is to be a woman in the North working in the visual arts. But Alhamdulilah, I am thankful to the community and the nation at large for being so wonderful and kind.