Photography and other forms of digital imagery have the ability to unwrap the positive cloth that people in positions of power use to cover up the societal problems that they have not been able to address o have an active hand in perpetuating. Photographer and graphic artist Mustafa Saeed recognizes that releasing his shutter provides an engagement with these issues behind fabricated filters.
His work titled Cornered Energies highlights the non-existence of youth platforms for youth in Somalia, as well as the lack of self-expression they face. The title of this work speaks to this directly, expressing how under these circumstances young people are forced to bottle up their creative energies, resulting in wasted energy that sits in the corner, untouched. Saeed photographed young people in various spaces that make up their everyday. Adding another layer to this engagement with suppressed energy, Mustafa interviewed the people he photographed about how they feel with regards to the lack of freedom to express their creative desires. The project culminated in a slideshow of images looping while the audio recordings of his participants provide voice and context to the visual narrative.
Saeed’s work also sheds light on the high unemployment rate in Somalia. His photographic series, Division Multiplied, he depicts men sitting outside a telecommunication office in downtown Hargeisa reading newspapers in the hopes of finding job advertisements. Saeed’s ability to capture the raw reality many face demonstrates how this collective plight is more than a statistic. His humanist references for his work are clearly visible in these works.
While a lot of his work reflects on the everyday issues that need to be addressed in Somalia, Saeed also finds it important to present a counter-narrative to the way in which his country is represented in Western media. Teaming up with eight other photographers, and tapping into the way in which apps such as Instagram provide a way to make counter-narratives reach the surface, he participated in the project Everyday Horn of Africa. The project also included photographers from Ethiopia. With the intention to dismantle the dominant visuals of their home country, they took photographs that constructed an everyday that goes beyond images of poverty, and Western self-promotion through images of providing aid.