Unearth

Unearth

Nada Harib, 2024 Winner

Growing up under Gaddafi’s regime, many things were hidden from us and we were not allowed to tell our story. Before I started to explore my country through my camera, Libya for me was hidden beneath these layers of mystery. After the revolution in 2011 and the fall of the Gaddafi Regime, these layers began to peel back with each year. Every time I made photos, I became more aware of the value of our culture and the complexities of the reality we live in. I am returning to Libya to document what remains of the fallen dictatorship, the revolution and endless wars that shaped me and my country.

Nawal, a woman from Tarhuna, poses for a photo in her makeshift home in a building complex under construction, where many displaced families live, on January 11, 2021 in Tripoli, Libya.

A member of the General Authority for Search and Identification of Missing Persons team walks through the mass grave site in Tarhuna, Libya, on March 24, 2021. Nada Harib/Getty Images

Nine-year-old Moad al-Falous, a survivor of the Al-Kaneyat massacres, mourns over the deaths he witnessed of his brothers, Abdurahman, 16, AbduAlmalek, 15, and Mohammed,10, and his father, Abdulaali al-Falous, 53, who were found in a mass grave, during funeral prayers in Tarhuna, Libya on March 5, 2021. Nada Harib/Getty Images

War torn books at Mashrou’ high school in southern Tripoli, Libya, on October 3, 2020.

Mahmoud Al-Delieh, 33, a land mine survivor, receives congratulations over the phone on his wedding day in Khallat Al-Forjan in Tripoli, Libya, on May 15, 2022. Nada Harib/Getty Images

Esra Albadri, the bride of Mahmoud Al-D`elieh, a land mine survivor, leaves the wedding hall in Khallat Al-Forjan, Tripoli on May 15, 2022. Nada Harib/Getty Images

Fourteen identified bodies found in a mass grave in the city of Tarhuna, rest inside the dissection room at Tripoli Central Hospital in Tripoli on January 22, 2021. Nada Harib/Getty Images

A ring belonging to one of the victims that was found in the mass graves in Tarhuna is held at the Forensic Medicine Department in Abu Salim Hospital in Tripoli, August 05, 2021. Nada Harib/Getty Images

Mustafa Fraj Mohammed, whose brother is amongst the victims of the Al-Kaneyat massacres (his body remains unidentified) poses for a photo at the Office of the Ministry for the Affairs of the Families of the Martyrs and Missing Persons at the municipal of Tarhuna, Libya, on Feb 21, 2021.

Photographs show the Haroudas sisters, Rima, Hawa and Laila, who are amongst the victims of Al-Kaneyat militia massacres in Tarhuna, February 22, 2021. The bodies of two of their brothers, Ali and Muftah Harouda, are still missing. Nada Harib/Getty Images

The graves of three Hrouda family members — sisters Hawa, Rima and Laila — are labeled with serial number bars at Abu-Shusha cemetery in Tripoli, January 22, 2021.

My brothers, Nizar and Ala, playing with toy guns on Dol Street in Ben-Ashour, Tripoli, Libya in 1992.  (Archive photo)

Half-buried trousers on the ground at al-Kaniyat’s detention center in Tarhuna, January 05, 2021.

Family members mourn over victims of Al-Kaneyat massacre, brothers Abdurahman, 16, AbduAlmalek, 15, and Mohammed,10, and their father, Abdulaali al-Falous, 53, at their funeral in Tarhuna, March 5, 2021. Nada Harib/Getty Images

A military uniform hangs on the blackboard of a classroom at Fatat a-Thawra school, my former school, in Ben-Ashour, Tripoli, October 4, 2020. 

The damaged yard of Dar El-Baida elementary and middle school is seen in southern Tripoli, Ain-Zara, March 22, 2022.

A damaged theater at al-Hurriya school on Airport Road, Southern Tripoli, October 04, 2020.

Girls related to Mahmoud Al-Delieh, a land mine survivor, pose for a photo on his wedding day in Khallat Al-Forjan, Tripoli, May 15, 2022.

My sister and I in a field off the side of the road between Tripoli and Yefren, Libya 1992. (Archive photo)

 My father and my cousins Ashrif and Zakaria enjoy a picnic, 1992 (Archive photo)

 My mother braids Nour’s hair in a traditional style before she puts on Tlaba, our traditional woolen garment. Yefren, Libya, February 16, 2019.

 Hafsa al-Ansari, a Tuareg woman in Ubari, Libya, January, 18, 2019.

Hafsa al-Ansari, a Tuareg woman, drinks tea with her cousin, Aisha al-Ansari while watching a movie, Ubari, Libya, January 15, 2019.

A bedroom in one of the houses in the Mashrou al-Hadba area was damaged as a result of the war on the capital, Tripoli, Libya, July 19, 2020.

 A billboard on Airport Road, in southern Tripoli, was damaged as a result of the war on the capital, July 19, 2020.

A damaged yard is seen at Mashrou’ high school in southern Tripoli, October 3, 2020.

Sabrine poses for my mom in Yefren, Libya 1996 (archive photo)

My cousin, Mira, wears our grandmother's tlaba (wool garment) to connect to her family roots and Amazigh culture, reviving the cultural heritage of the Nafusa mountains in Yefren, Libya, October 28, 2018.

Photographer's Statement: 

During the time when Gaddafi controlled Libya, the country’s entire public image was in the hands of his regime. Nothing was released until it was approved by Gaddafi himself. After the revolution, censorship became less severe. The consequence of what is happening now is the result of 42 years of oppression. Documentation was forbidden back then. We were denied the ability to tell our own story.

In 2018, I started to explore my Amazigh roots, reviving the cultural heritage of my hometown Yefren. The war erupted on April 2019 in Tripoli. Amid the turmoil and chaos, I took on the new role of being a photojournalist, and I began documenting the challenges of everyday life for people in Libya, motivated by the need to bear witness to what was happening around me. I focused on the stories of the aftermath of the conflict zones; from mass graves of Tarhana, the landmines and unexploded ordnance to migrants and many humanitarian crises in Tripoli and the surrounding cities.

After the recent war on the Libyan capital, I had a flashback of how we used to wear military uniforms in our high schools. Today students no longer wear them. This ignited my desire to tell the stories of what was unfolding around us and made me realize many traces have been left behind. I’m exploring our recent history through the juxtaposition of previously concealed narratives with the new imagery of contemporary events to reconstruct both my own history and the history of my land. I must look at the past and dig deeper into what hasn’t been documented when Libya was only seen in green, Gaddafi’s color.

I got inspired by the work of other photographers, telling stories from different countries at the same time it made me feel sad that I hadnt found Libyans speaking about Libya – no story-telling photographs. I longed to hear the voices of Libyans sharing about their own lives. All these experiences converged to create my ongoing project Unearth, in which I tell the story of my homeland, intertwined with my autobiography and my work as a photojournalist from the time when Libya was in the hands of Gaddafis regime, to the 17th of February revolution, the civil war, and now a new tyrant. The series is an intimate recollection of childhood memories and the fears of change mingled with the hopes that Libyas new chapter would reveal beauty.

Im driven by the desire to create work that can help forward the conversation, keep a record of who we are, and have a part in changing minds. Following the stories of the most influential photojournalists who have changed minds has inspired me to act and leave a legacy for future generations.

NadaHarib's picture
Nada
Harib

Nada Harib is an independent photographer, born and raised in Tripoli, Libya. Her practice focuses on capturing long-term stories and daily news events in Libya and the United States.  She is a member of the African Photojournalism Database (APJD) and a contributor to @EverydayAfrica and @EverydayMiddleEast.  Her photographs have been featured in publications such as Reuters, Getty Images, BBC, and The Washington Post.  She has participated in group exhibitions including UNHCR Libya, Institut du Monde Arabe in Tourcoing, France and at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. 

As well as being the recipient of the Arab Documentary Photography Program (ADP) grant and Magnum Foundation Grant, Harib’s photography was recognized as one of Time Magazine's Top 100 Photos of 2021. She was a mentee of the VII Mentor Program in 2022.  Chosen for the Mary Ellen Mark Memorial Scholarship, Harib graduated from the Documentary Practice & Visual Journalism Program at the International Center of Photography in 2023. Participating in the Eddie Adams Workshop XXXVI, she was awarded a Bloomberg News assignment. She is currently based in New York City.

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