Updated: Oct 22, 2020
‘Banned Beauty’ is a long term and ongoing visual research, I started in late 2016 about the practice of breast ironing in Cameroon.
In Cameroon early marriage, teenage motherhood and rape are common experiences for many girls and women. Girls reach puberty much earlier than the age at which they usually marry. One out of every five girls is a teenage mother.
In an attempt to delay or diminish breast development in young girls, it is a common practice for their mother or grandmother to massage pubescent girl's breasts using hard or heated objects - mostly cooking tools heated over coals. Nearly a quarter of Cameroonian women have endured some form of breast ironing. The practices take different forms from village to village, but the goal is the same. Family matriarchs hope that flattening the girls’ breasts will delay or hide their maturity, so that these young girls will appear less attractive to men.
Who is this #remarkable woman ?
Heba Khamis (Dec1988), an Egyptian independent visual researcher concentrates on sensitive tabooed social issues related to the body. In 2018-2019 her projects were awarded at the World Press Photo. Among other international awards include PHmuseum and the Ian Parry awards. Since 2020, Heba is represented by NOOR images agency.
After graduating with a bachelor in painting, Heba did a career shift and worked as a photojournalist. She covered the two revolutions in Egypt and the aftermath. After studying visual storytelling in Denmark she decided to dedicate her career completely to long term visual storytelling.
After this shift in her career, she starts considering herself as a visual researcher, as this term describes better her complex approach to visual storytelling. She carries the ethics of traditional documentary form with strong believe in the need of integrating the subjects while telling their stories. Therefore beyond her usual photographic approach, she adds different elements and mediums belonging to the subjects of her stories.
Recently, she has been interested in art therapy, where she would like to involve the protagonists more in the creation process. By adding their drawings alongside her photographs, she aims to give them the chance to express themselves and interact in telling their own story.
2020 _ "Catchlight" Visual Leadership Fellowship. 2019 _ "world press photo" contest, second prize people singles. "Black Birds" series. _ "Nannen Preis" award, shortlisted, photo-reportage. "Banned Beauty"series. _ "World press photo" 6x6 Global Talent Program, Africa. 2018 _ "world press photo" contest, first prize, contemporary issues stories. "Banned Beauty"series. _ "Reuters Pictures" grant . _"Through a Women’s Lens" award, Honorable Mention. "Banned Beauty"series. 2017 _ "Ian Parry scholarship", commended. "Banned Beauty"series. _ "PHmuseum" Women Photographers, second prize. "Banned Beauty"series.
Pic and credits Heba Khamis.