Today is World Hijab Day (WHD); as founded by Nazma Khan. She launched the awareness day to raise tolerance and interaction between Hijabi wearing individuals and non-Muslims/non-Hijabis. My first introduction to Islam came by way of my caretaker Mama Fauzia. The most poignant memory I have of Mama was in her technicolor tracksuit; walking through a department store with me. Her head was held high and she looked powerful…I remember that, I loved that.
This image of her starkly contrasts the angelic look she had when she wore her hijab in preparation for Maghrib (sunset) prayer. It has been years since I last had the pleasure of seeing Mama, but thanks to her Islam and the hijab have never been a foreign concepts to me
Hijabis in fashion
For 21 year old Hafsa Abdishakir, World Hijab Day (WHD) is the perfect opportunity for non-Muslims and Muslims to experience the hijab together. For the young model, wearing the veil has nothing to do with oppression, but more to do with how she feels “empowered by putting forth [her] faith and [identity] as a Muslim woman.”
The fashion industry can be likened to a cauldron of social ills. Discrimination, racism, body shaming are a few that stand out, for instance. While there are amazing moments for many, hijabis don’t always experience them. Living in the hijab has resulted in losing opportunities and not being able to work with various agencies in Nairobi for Halfa. What keeps her going is the belief that people will realize that models are equally great with their hijabs on.
“It’s very disappointing; that’s why I stopped modeling for a year, but I’m getting [to] it again.”
Islam is no secret to the industry. In 2011, Reuters reported that “women from the Middle East have become the world’s biggest buyers of high fashion.” Since then, the Telegraph has reported that the Middle East is among the top three in haute couture buyers. The inclusion of a 2016 collection by Dolce & Gabana and Nike’s 2017 venture into a high tech hijab for Muslim athletes are recent markers of the presence of Islam in fashion.
Unfortunately, hijabis are often discriminated against and criticized. “People have the wrong concept of the hijab; like we are terrorists or something,” she says. “Hijab is peace,” the model continues. As the years go by, Halfa hopes that people continue to include Muslim women in fashion.
Meeting Hafsa for the first time
Cedric Nzaka, a Kenyan born – South African based, photographer has captured the attention of South Africans since he began shooting “every day people” at markets like Neighborgoods in Braamfontein, among other spots, in 2013. Since then, he has become the apple of many eyes throughout the country.
His return to Kenya in December 2017 left followers wondering what he was up to; a question he answered with a series of posts announcing his return to his birth country and his new work. One project that he has shared is a collaboration with Tintseh, the KFA Photographer of the Year for 2017.
“TAASINA WAA NOLOSHA “SUCH IS LIFE”” is the collaboration where many encountered Halfa for the first time. The full series is available here.