Fati Abubakar

A documentary photographer, photojournalist, and public   health humanitarian health worker from Borno State Nigeria


© Fati Abubakar

Her work is just amazing and really inspiring, it was an honor speaking to her on one sided stories and its danger and impact on society.

Abubakar specializes in documenting cities and towns, highlighting both the positives and negatives of each location. She focuses on health perspectives, using photography as a medium to highlight the problems at community level.

She also has an interest in documenting cultures, conflict, urban poverty, rural development, and    humanitarian    issues.   She    has    a    special    interest    in    counter narratives for underrepresented communities.  She has embarked on a personal project to showcase her hometown of Borno State, Nigeria at the time of Boko haram entitled “Bits of Borno”.



The project has gained critical acclaim and has been published in international media publications including the New York Times, BBC, Reuters, CNN, Voice of America, Newsweek Europe, and Nigerian newspapers such as This Day and The Blueprint.  She has been commissioned to work with agencies including UNICEF, International Alert, and others.

© Fati Abubakar

“Documentation of African stories is very important. We need to capture African present-day realities,” she says. “We are losing our cultures to modernity. Hence, we also have to preserve our heritage.  Millennials have been introduced to new forms of culture and those are slowly erasing old traditions.  And that is disturbing.”

Her aim is to document and preserve social practices, festive events, daily tasks, and knowledge. “My way of preservation is by using photography. I document everyday stories of my community using imagery. I photograph everything: from the impact of the insurgency on our town to the resilience of our people, to the tribes within my community. I feel that with visual storytelling, people learn more about our cultures and traditions at the same time, archiving our present day.  Years from now, generations will want to know what happened.”

There are several reasons that motivate her. “One, being that the insurgency has been portrayed from mostly one angle, which is devastation and death. They [the media] don’t really see outside of that, which is really unfortunate.  And for the rest of your life, you will be labelled as something that came out of there, something that is depressed.”

© Fati Abubakar

“I was doing a dissertation  on the  impact  of psychological health of refugees and I discovered that despite the fact that there is  a  crisis  going  on,  there is also resilience and joy and love and happiness.  We are grouped as all  traumatized. That was what I saw in Maiduguri. Also, everyone   seemed  to  have  a  page where  they document  life  in  their  city. No  one  was  doing  that for  us  [in Borno State]. I felt our stories had to be told.

Everyone was focused on the IDP issue and I wanted to do something different. Not really happy stories per se,  but  everyday  life.  I  was  tired  of  the  trauma  narrative  so  I  diverted  from  it.  I started  with Nostalgia.  I  was  photographing architecture  because I think we are losing our buildings. Then, news came in with figures: 10,000 dead, 5,000–they  don’t  give  accounts  of  what  these  victims  left behind, so  my  interest  was  the  impact  of  the  numbers  that  have  died  on  the numbers  that  have  been  left  behind,” she explains.


 Abubakar has plans for a book  to archive the stories. But on a wider scale, she points out: “We  have  to  recognize  the  value  of  arts  and  culture  to  society first. I would like to see governments and the private sector provide grants for artists. The  Ministries  for  Arts  and  Culture  need  to  renovate  museums  so  as  to  create platforms  were  artists  can  display  their  work.  There  are  no  endowments  for artists,  there’s  no  conversation  about  art,  there’s  no  serious  arts  education  in most  universities in Nigeria.  The  future  of  artists  is  just  uncertain.  For

For example, George Soros  of  Open  Society  Foundations  had  created  a  billion  dollar fund  that  gives grants  to  artists. In  Africa,  we have  billionaires  but  there  are  no  foundations for artists. Museums in other parts of the world are so  beautifully adorned with art, but we don’t see that happening around Africa. It is truly tragic.”