The Photographer Challenging Beauty Standards for Women of Colour
Jameela Elfaki is breaking boundaries across the region
Sarah Ben Romdane
Jameela Elfaki is a British-Sudanese Central Saint Martins graduate, photographer and founding Editor of Azeema, the first magazine dedicated to women of colour and women from the Middle East, North Africa.
Having launched in the Spring of 2017, Azeema’s main aim is to challenge and confront the issues surrounding diversity and representation within the creative industries, and to create a space that’s inclusive of creed and faith (whether that’s Islam, African, Arab or Asian culture).
“We live in a society that’s flooded with images of a certain ‘standard of beauty’. Whether it’s lighter skin or straighter hair, overall the standard sends a clear and persistent message of what is perceived by society to be the most important view of beauty/fashion.” Says Jameela, in reference to the beauty shoot pictured above. “ With this shoot, I wanted to show something that challenged those ideals”.
Ever since she owned her first smartphone, Elfaki always loved taking beautiful photos. “Growing up, I noticed that there weren’t magazines for women from the Middle East/North Africa and Women of Colour with a fashion and culture focus. As a mixed-race woman of colour with an Islamic background and being brought up in the UK, I longed to hear stories and see images of girls that were like me”.
Azeema challenges the misconstrued and negative information being thrown around particularly regarding women of colour from the MENA region. She says, “It is important to have creative outputs like Azeema, as we have the opportunity to reach out to individuals and share their experiences or report on them in the correct way, with the aim of educating and helping others. Although there is more awareness now, there is always room for improvement”.
How did you get into photography?
I studied media and art at school, which made me realise that I loved fashion imagery specifically. I come from a creative home, my mum was always making things and encouraging me to think creatively, so I think my love of photography is a combination of all of those elements.
What is it you hope to achieve with your photography?
I just love making beautiful images. If I can project a positive and strong message through visuals then that’s amazing.
What are your thoughts on the misrepresentation of women of colour in the arts in general? Why is it so important to have Azeema here in England?
Diversity and representation has always been a massive issue, especially in the fashion industry. In the West, there is a lot of misconstrued and negative information being thrown around in general, particularly regarding women of colour from the MENA regions.