Interviewing people from different fields has given me the chance to expand my horizons. Most importantly, to learn from their stories. I have interviewed photographers, graphic designers, graffiti artists, researchers, and athletes. They all had something special to add to this journey of documentation.
But in this article, I am sharing with you to get to know the story of a human. Another stranger I crossed paths with but I would say, it is the highlight of my interviews journey.
I wanted to title this piece based on what this person does. However, throughout our profound and deep conversation, I decided to change it completely. I realized that this person should not be titled based on what he does. Merely because his entire being is a story.
I don’t want to share a talent, but this time, I want to highlight a person with his whole being. Someone who left a profound impact on me personally. Today, I share with you details of the story of Amaka.
Who is Amaka?
”Amaka is a human” this is how the conversation started and let me tell you, what a start! Amaka is 27 years old from Ghat, Libya. He lived in Ghat his entire life. His entire being revolved around the traditions Tuareg practices in the Libyan south. From music, to cultural festivals, food, clothing, and language. The richness and diversity of his culture was somehow invisible and taken for granted by Amaka. He didn’t appreciate that when he was in the midst of it.
His realization began to form when he left it in 2017 to reside in Tunisia. For him, Ghat was the city that lacked many basic services from health to education and the struggles of people were plenty to even mention.
He wondered for years why the environment was the way it was. As he saw other places around the world where they had good services and basics of life.
People didn’t approve the ethics but they didn’t approve the system, too. When he moved to Tunisia, he realized the importance of his identity and people paid attention to him because of it.
To say a late apology
Amaka told me that he owes an apology to his city for all the years he didn’t appreciate it. Because he only realized it later in life. He left home in early 2017 and moved to Tunisia. Moving to France was his goal but his visa application was declined. In the past four years, Amaka has changed enormously. Now, he thanks France for declining his visa because he no longer wants to go.
He realized that he lacked awareness and his train of thoughts was random. The impact of Tunisia in him has been great. He got the chance to be an individual thinker which was not possible in Libya. Back home, the flock concept prevailed the scene in which the group way of thinking was the leading concept. It is not accepted to be a unique individual back home and it is a sad reality to admit.
A unique definition
He discovered that art played a huge role in his upbringing and existence. I asked him what it meant to be an artist. He gave me an unexpected answer. Being an artist is always given to those individuals who have done great things. He doesn’t want people to use the term ‘’artist’’ to describe him. As he explained, he is an artist in everything he does. The way he dresses, the way he lives, the way he plays guitar, and even the feelings he feels. Amaka simply feels art in everything he does.
Amaka doesn’t like to be basic, in fact, he likes to represent himself in his environment. What people say doesn’t really matter but he takes their words into account before he makes any action. He mentioned a very good point when we talked about our feelings as human beings.
He said and I quote ”I fear my feelings”. Every individual has an ego deep inside. It creates a boundary between one person to another but some comments can help you develop. ”You should have an ear to listen,” Amaka added.
Amaka’s story with photography
Photography plays a huge role in Amaka’s life and it is deeply connected with his identity. However, in the beginning, he didn’t really like it and he was more into writing articles for a local magazine in his hometown, Ghat. Back in 2011, he was supposed to cover an event in his city to write a piece about it. However, the photographer didn’t show up and they only had a C6 phone.
There were people with professional cameras and his supervisor gave him the phone and asked him to take the pictures.
Amaka refused in the beginning but when his supervisor insisted, he did it anyway. His supervisor saw the pictures afterwards and was amazed. He told Amaka that he should take photography seriously.
He then began to take more pictures in many social events in the south and focused on the Tourism Festival in Ghat.
Photography caused tension in his relationship with his father as he was a sheikh and had a great value in the social structure of the city.
Amaka’s father influence
He started pages on social media to share his photography work but as he described to me, he just took beautiful pictures but he didn’t capture the soul. This is because he didn’t even know what it meant. He took some time off from 2014 to 2016.
His father’s death had a huge impact on him. He died because of the lack of services to patients suffering from chronic Kidney disease in Ghat. Amaka felt restricted when he couldn’t do anything to help his father. He ended up watching his father die in front of him. He wanted to help because he didn’t want other people to feel what he felt when he lost his father.
It is the reason why he wanted to do an exhibition in Tripoli. Amaka and two of his friends decided to do it and head to Tripoli to find ways to make is happen. For all the revenues from the exhibition were directed to the kidney department back in his hometown.
Libyana, the telecommunication and information technology company, helped fund the exhibition as it was for a great cause. It is important to mention that it was their first time to fund an individual because they usually fund companies.
The exhibition was held in Dar Alfunoon and Amaka considers this place as the second station in his journey. It opened his eyes to many things. In addition, he received enormous support from many big Libyan photographers like Sasi Hreib and Khalid Salama may his soul rest in peace.
Amaka’s words to his father
We talked about his late father and what it would mean for him to see his son’s exhibition. Amaka wanted to carry on with his father’s legacy as he spent his entire life helping people in Ghat. He said that the Tuareg culture has always been transferred, however, he is a ”Tuargian” at heart.
Amaka only got the chance to get to know his father in the last two years before he died. When I asked Amaka what he would tell his father in that moment? Amaka paused for a minute and he said that he thought of many things at that time during the exhibition but Amaka finally said:
‘’father your son is not a loser, here I am. I deserve your trust and forgive me, father, if these words would make you sad but I deserve your trust and I am not a loser.’’
These words got me personally emotional because Amaka was honest and he spoke straight from the heart and I personally felt it.
Back to reality
After the exhibition was over, the revenues were given to kidney disease department at the local hospital in Ghat but unfortunately, the problem remains until today.
He also thought that the exhibition would open doors for him but this wasn’t the case.
However, he holds the words that were said to him by the late photographer Khalid Salama deep in his heart. He told him that in all the photography exhibitions he visited worldwide, he has always thought that the camera remains bigger than the photographer but in Amaka’s exhibition, the photographer is bigger than the camera.
What Amaka learned today..
Today, Amaka, he is not the same person who took photos back in 2017. He discovered in his photography that he aimed to transfer the identity but he didn’t feel it. However, now he feels it stronger since he is away from home. He said that if he will do an exhibition in the future, it will truly be an artistic exhibition.
Now, Amaka is more into music. He is making music with the Tunis-based Libyan music producer, Tika. While being in Tunisia, he expressed how much he misses the music of his culture. He remembers his mother playing imzad which is a traditional musical instrument.
Finally, I asked him about his future vision and he only ended the conversation with ”I hope to settle” and I believe this can say so much and I wanted to end it here with no further explanation.
All photos credit in this article goes to Amaka. You can follow his Instagram page: A M A K A (@amaka.jaji) • Instagram photos and videos