Fati Abubakar is used to the odd looks she gets as a young, single woman with a big camera roaming the streets of northeastern Nigeria on her own. But those looks — coupled with curious, sometimes suspicious questions: What are you going to do with those pictures? What's your agenda? — have not stopped her from snapping thousands of portraits of daily life there.
"Because of how our culture is very conservative, they are not used to seeing a woman with a camera walking around, so they kind of disapprove," Abubakar told Refinery29. "Occasionally, people say, 'You should get married,' or, 'You should focus on getting a real job, this isn’t a profession.'"
But the 30-year-old Nigerian woman is on a mission to change the way the world sees her homeland. Borno state, where Abubakar was born and raised, has been plagued by violence and instability as government forces fight against Boko Haram, an armed group that has aligned itself with ISIS. The group made headlines in 2014 for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. In all, violence has affected 5 million Nigerians and forced 2.2 million people to flee to other parts of the country, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"You take it day by day; today it might be peaceful and tomorrow it might be chaos. It’s very uncertain. It can get depressing," Abubakar said of living there. "The fact is that you live life on the edge and you’re never calm, even for a few days. It’s very traumatising."
But amid that violence, there is still hope and resilience. It's those powerful moments of positivity that Abubakar trains her camera on. She captures them all and shares them with the world through her Instagram account, Bits of Borno. She said she also uses the page to collect donations of food and clothing for some of the subjects of her photos.
Ahead, Abubakar shares some of her favourite photos, and why she will never stop doing this work, with Refinery29.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All captions were provided by Abubakar.