Humans of Maiduguri: Capturing the Hometown of Boko Haram

Humans of Maiduguri: Capturing the Hometown of Boko Haram

Fati Abubakar is an acclaimed photographer who was inspired by instagram to capture daily life in her hometown Maidiguri.

Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and stories of this place are filled with tragedy and violence. As a photographer Fati took on the challenge to show a nuanced image of her town. Her instagram account BitsofBorno is also locally popular, although some times her work can be a little risky.

Be sure to check out her feature on the NY times and follow her on instagram.

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‘After the completion of my degree in pharmacy, there was a compulsory one year internship as a pharmacist, we get paid. Alhamdulilah I was able to save some of the money. And open my beauty salon. Once you start an business, you’ve to excuse patience. Some days you spend a whole day and there’s not a single customer. A lot of issues still in Maiduguri, businesses are going struggling to grow. There have to be disappointments but they pay off in the end. My advice would be to take the risk, take the initiative . A lot of people say I want to do this, but they never take the final step, to do it. That’s what’s holding people back. Do it. And then pray to Almighty Allah to intervene and make things work’

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‘I am 20years old and have been a hunter for 15years. Since age 5, I’ve followed my father everywhere he went as a hunter. Now that I am old enough I venture out on my own with other hunters and we patrol day and night in neighboring towns around Maiduguri. Unfortunately our own village is too dangerous to infiltrate. During patrols we climb trees to sit and wait for the insurgents. Most times we see them passing with herds of cattle they have stolen from villagers. Yesterday it was 30 cows but in the past it’s been almost 500-1000 cows they steal from poor people in rural communities. If they’ve AK47s it is easy for them to steal whatever they want. I don’t have any fear really. This is all I’ve done my whole life; because this, protecting people for Allah’s sake. I have put my trust in God. I pray for good outcomes’

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‘We have been here even before the youth vigilante groups started. And when the military training started, a colonel called the hunters. We went to the boot camp three times but a lot of my men felt it wasn’t for them. We are very traditional in our ways and they were overwhelmed by the rigor and sophistication. Many left. Our way of life is very different. It is age old and we felt the government should just equip us with modern ammunition and we can use our traditional methods that work for us. Like this charm for example, we believe that it protects you from harm. You carry it wherever you go in your car. The other charm on your waist and your gun. You can enter the forest with your knowledge of it, even a lion’s den’

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‘Hunters are in every local government area. My men are everywhere. It is all for peace to reign in Borno, our home. When Bokoharam had started, the previous governor had sent for hunters and we went everywhere even before the civilian vigilantes grouped. Even I myself went to Sambisa forest. But we became overwhelmed. Traditional rulers were getting killed. That’s the reason we moved to Maiduguri. Some are very hardworking and others are losing interest because it’s hard unpaid work. When you die, no one takes care of your family. I always go to provide moral support in every location. We have to be where our hunters are valued such as Konduga, Mafa, Gubio, Damasak. In these towns, our hunters require are supported by the villagers with the little they have. Small things such as shoes, uniforms’

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‘I am the Mai Karwina of Borno (leader of the hunters). I was crowned 17years ago when my father died. I was 12year old. Even at the age no one made me feel like I was unworthy of being in the position. I grew up with the other hunters still I became a man old enough to lead. Borno is our home, our land. So we know where the terrorists will go and where they might hide. And every time we go to attack terrorists, we lose one or two of our boys because we don’t have the necessary ammunition and machinery or any support from government. Our guns are outdated. With rainy season approaching, the gun will only function for two strikes maximum and anyone can strike you dead afterwards. It isn’t a modern version. It’s difficult working like this. We need weapons. We work day and night because it’s our community but sadly there’s no support. We are hoping and desperately seeking the attention of government to provide us with the necessities. We just want to win this war’

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‘We got a call a few days ago that a herd of cattle has been stolen and would be following a certain route. We rushed to the scene and awaited their arrival. We noticed that they had AK47s. We just have our locally made guns. Still we were able to kill them but one of our boys was shot and currently in the hospital.. We were amazed to find out they also make their own bullets and guns. The kind of ammunition that Bokoharam has is sophisticated for us. The only thing limiting us is that our team has locally made guns intended for hunting. It wasn’t made for fighting terrorists groups. We just hope that the government can step in with training and funding for our activities. Whenever an attack happens, they say ‘call The Karwina’ but when we solicit for funding, we don’t receive it. There isn’t even welfare for the families of those we have lost. We only have two cars: land cruisers that the leader uses. We all drive to the forest in our own cars’

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‘I was born in Maiduguri but moved to Kano and became a photographer for many years. But I came back and joined a photo studio here in Maiduguri. We print and frame photographs. It is a source of income for me. But my heart is in music. I am rapper. I sponsor my own videos and spend a lot of money making them. I edit the videos myself and sometimes I edit for others as well mostly when they can’t afford to fund video editing. The film and music industry here hasn’t reached a stage where you can commit to it fully, you can’t make a living with it. My recent music video talks about peaceful coexistence between people of all tribes and religions. We should never allow religion to come between us and always aspire to live together in peace and harmony. We need peace’

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‘We left Banki during the first Boko Haram attack. My husband escaped because they were killing men. My other children were in Cameroon studying. I escaped with one child. The two older children were abducted by Boko Haram. We came to Lagos about six years ago. But when we settle here, I was pregnant at the time, my husband was arrested. People within the community had reported. He was very scholarly and was teaching young children the Quran. They said they were suspecting him of a terrorist. The baby is almost four years now. We don’t know where he was taken to whether he’s dead or alive. I am here in the settlement with people from Borno, because I don’t want my blood pressure to rise. And our house was burned down by area boys’

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'Bokoharam shot him and then chased his friend to the street, shot him as well. I found my husband in this living room in a pool of blood. He gave up the ghost in my arms. He had been killed because he was a government worker. At the time there had been silent killings of whoever they belived was educated and working for government. And with his involvement with the civilian vigiliante group, it escalated the issue. Bokoharam didnt like that. His death left me with seven children. Because i didnt want anyone to hurt my daughters, i became the only one going out everywhere to fend for the family. Boko haram did not want girls moving around. It has been five years now and one of my girls has graduated secondary school and another in the college of health. Shes studying public health. It is still a struggle because everyone has their owns family burdens and can’t help you that much. We look to God'

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