If I was still in Eritrea I’d be shooting an AK47 or probably dead.
When you reach grade 12 you are also trained as a soldier and whoever fails has to join military services and serve the war.
25/5/2005 was my first day in London, I was kept in the airport for hours which felt like the whole day waiting for social services to arrive and take me to my temporary accommodation. My first foster family was in Brixton, my first day in Brixton market was magical but also shocking. I thought I was back in Africa and at the time this was not a great feeling (although now I love going to Brixton as often as I can as it’s when I feel a bit closer to home).
Three months later I moved to Orpington. Finding a school that would take me was hard but we managed to get a place at Bishop Justice where I completed my secondary school education. People’s reactions in school were funny - they’d say “ hold on to your Ethiopian you must be able to run long-distance” or they would ask me “why are you not skinny?”. I am quite proud of 12-year-old me because I just thought it was funny and I could see that they didn’t know any better. The school was alright but I gave up after being forcefully moved from my favourite foster house without either me or my foster mum wanting me to move. Social services gave a reason that did not make sense and I’m still not clear to this day.
The day I moved was the day I bought a pack of cigarettes for the first time and was the day I embraced my rebellious side. I was first to do anything that my friends were scared to do; 14-year-old me thought I was taking it out on the system. I even reported my move and all I got was a letter of apology and £150 but my life was completely changed from thereon. Every day was hell. I never wanted to go home after school and because of this, I was not doing well in school. I was completely distracted.
At the age of 16 and a half, I was given the option to move out to semi-independent accommodation. At the time I was in a relationship, so I spent a lot of time with him and was also attending my first year of college, where I got a distinction in Art and Design. Fashion had a massive influence on my work that year so I soon switched my focus to studying fashion. It wasn’t what I expected so I left. This was the same with the business but at the time I was given £45 a week for everything I needed and we all know that is not enough so my mind was on making more money. I worked several jobs at the time, one of them being braiding hair for friends and anyone I came across with Afro hair. I went through a lot between the ages of 18 and 20. I then had a year of really exploring my interest and that’s when I discovered my special relationship with photographs. I decided to buy a camera and quickly enjoyed learning how to use it. Soon I wanted to learn more specifically about photography as a medium which leads me to study photography and ultimately, my career.