Saturday May 18th, 2024
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Award-Winning Storyteller Heba Khamis On Capturing ‘Banned Beauty’

Egyptian visual storyteller Heba Khamis shares her approach to the award-winning project ‘Banned Beauty’.

Farah Desouky

Award-Winning Storyteller Heba Khamis On Capturing ‘Banned Beauty’

A photojournalist turned visual storyteller, a two-time winner of the World Press Photo, an Alexandrian woman, but most importantly: a cautious researcher and speaker, Heba Khamis. Born and based in Alexandria, Egypt, Khamis began her career covering the 25th of January Revolution, documenting on-ground protests and conflicts. Years later, she delved into long-term projects, viewing them as a journey of connecting with people and centring their voices before her lens.

As part of Alex Photo Week 2024, Khamis showcased a photo series shot in Cameroon, titled ‘Banned Beauty’. The project, which started in 2016, remains one that Khamis reflects on to this day, as she sifts through images and questions her attempt at capturing a violent practice without vilifying the procedure or sensationalising the young girls subjected to it.

The project addresses breast ironing in Cameroon, a procedure widely practised in rural areas. As Khamis entered family homes and spoke to mothers and young girls, she came to understand their fear of sexual violence and teenage pregnancy. "Out of every 1000 girls in Cameroon, 127 are teenage mothers. Mothers opt for the procedure to provide them with better opportunities in life; it’s a protective measure," Khamis tells CairoScene.

During @alexphotoweek, World Press Photo displayed the project as part of the ‘Resilience’ exhibition, which selected award-winning World Press stories from across the globe, showcasing and spotlighting the struggles of womanhood in different contexts. We had the opportunity to speak to Khamis about her project and her visual approach at large.

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