If I were still in Eritrea, I'd either be shooting an AK47 or, more likely, dead. In grade 12, you're trained as a soldier, and those who fail must join military services and serve in the war.
On May 25, 2005, my first day in London, I waited for hours in the airport for social services to take me to temporary accommodation. My first foster family was in Brixton, and my initial day at Brixton market was both magical and shocking – feeling like I was back in Africa, which wasn't a great feeling at the time, although now I love going to Brixton whenever I can to feel a bit closer to home.
Three months later, I moved to Orpington. Finding a school that would accept me was tough, but we secured a place at Bishop Justice, where I completed my secondary school education. People's reactions at school were amusing – they'd say, 'Hold on to your Ethiopian, you must be able to run long-distance,' or they'd ask, 'Why are you not skinny?' I'm proud of 12-year-old me because she found it funny and could see they didn't know any better.
The school was alright, but I gave up after being forcibly moved from my favorite foster house without either me or my foster mum wanting me to move. Social services gave a reason that didn't make sense, and I'm still not clear to this day.
The day they moved me was the day I bought a pack of cigarettes for the first time and embraced my rebellious side. I was the first to do anything 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 from social services, but my life completely changed from thereon. Every day was hell. I never wanted to go home after school, and because of this, I wasn't doing well in school – completely distracted.
At 16 and a half, I was given the option to move out to semi-independent accommodation. At the time, i had a lot to prove to my self and others and attended 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. At the time, I was given £45 a week for everything I needed, and we all know that's not enough, so my mind was on making more money. Learning how to survive.
I juggled multiple jobs, and one of them involved braiding hair for friends and anyone with Afro hair. I'd invite them to meet me at my friend's barbershop, where I'd spent a lot of my time with islanders. There, the seeds of wisdom my grandparents had instilled in me blossomed as I listened to reggae, chanted, and honed the craftsmanship of Dominos. I experienced a lot between the ages of 18 and 20. I then had a year of really exploring my interests, and that's when I discovered my special relationship with photographs. I decided to buy a camera and had a realisations that enjoyed learning how to use it. Soon, I wanted to learn more specifically about photography as a medium, which leads me to take a short course in photography and ultimately, my career.