Look past me just a little, the photographer tells me. The image to the right was taken by Tariq Tarey, a “visual ethnographer” and the man who shot the other gorgeous pictures that complement our story about Somalia, as well as the rousing photo on the cover.
Did that image and our accompanying words give you pause? It was meant to; it’s a departure for our magazine for sure, but it was designed to provide an unexpected— even provocative, perhaps—presentation of a subject we’ve never covered. It was intended to shine a light on the Somali diaspora that gave flight to millions of refugees and immigrants 24 years ago and scattered them around the globe. Thousands came here, including Tariq, who has spent the past 13 years documenting his people in Somalia and around Columbus, where he maintains his studio in the Milo Grogan neighborhood, more than 8,000 miles from the place he was born.
Stay with me, Tariq instructs.
It’s not just this magazine that hasn’t covered Somalis; the media in general haven’t reported about Somalia or its people’s diaspora in any kind of a consistent fashion. As we put the final touches on this issue, news broke that Al Shabaab—the Somali allies of Al Qaeda—released a video threatening malls, particularly the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the only U.S. city with a Somali population larger than Columbus.
Though the threat was quickly dismissed by many analysts and columnists as a desperate recruiting ploy for the weakened terrorist organization, it points to a larger problem in the mainstream perception of Somalis; this is often the only context in which people hear of them. Al Shabaab’s threat also alludes to another crisis, the diaspora’s system of money transfers that has been put in jeopardy, which we discuss in more detail in our cover story.
Chin up, just a touch, Tariq continues.
Somalis living in Columbus today are more than the sum of common perceptions and media stories. They are business owners and taxpayers and legal residents and advocates and mothers and brothers, and above all else, survivors. Their stories—as told to our writer Laura Dachenbach—depict a people of pride and resilience and strong cultural identity. Laura has worked alongside them for years, and her narrative presents a far more complete picture of the community members, who enjoy and appreciate their adopted home while yearning for peace in their homeland. It shows Columbus as a welcoming city, and also one that could still do more.
Yes. Right there, Tariq concludes.
We have the same goals for this story, Tariq and (614)—to bring attention and understanding to people who have largely gone unseen and unheard during the past two decades. Through Tariq’s photos and the Somali’s own stories you can learn, and understand, and hopefully empathize. Take the journey with them; it’s remarkable yet familiar, and it’s ongoing.
Snap. Tariq takes the picture, and as you can see above, the product is a testament to his outstanding skill. Somehow, it looks eerily like the photos you will see inside these pages, though I look nothing like a descendant of the Horn of Africa. It’s a result of his signature style, but it also speaks to the common humanity we all share.
Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief