Actions of peace are delivered through working in harmony with the natural world and with others. But it’s only human to find strength by seeking those similar to ourselves. It makes us feel secure. It confirms our view of the world. It is easy. However, peace can also be found in the unexpected and connecting with others who hold different views to us. This year, the United Nations are celebrating the International Day of Peace with the theme of ‘Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals’, asking us to challenge our belief systems and come together in harmony, regardless of our differences.
And while we have clear definitions of what peace means (freedom from disturbance. An absence of war. Tranquillity), its perception changes from place to place, person to person. This is why the camera plays such an important role in our shared understanding of what peace is – and is not. Photographs create reference points for us all to understand the multitudinous and subtle ways in which peace is absent, is sought and can be disrupted. Niga Salam’s photography might not take an exploration of peace to obvious places, but it lets you question and feel the discomfort caused by a lack of it.
Raised in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, Niga is a teacher with Lens on Life – an NGO which recently won the Canon Young People Programme (YPP) Partner of the Year at the Global Good Awards. She currently works in the Syrian Refugee Camp in Arbat, Iraq and will soon be leading Canon YPP workshops, which will enable young changemakers to learn more about photography. As an artist, she is concerned with identity, gender and the environment and is no stranger to the international stage, having exhibited and curated widely.
To mark International Day of Peace, we supported Niga Salam to tell her story at the United Nations General Assembly.She also held a workshop on Transformative Education Through Photography during the UN International Day of Peace Youth Observance. This was the same space in which peace was recognised as a fundamental human right seven years ago through the adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Peace, so was a truly significant place for Niga to make her powerful visual observations.
She often turns the camera on herself, not only as a means of her own self-exploration, but to trigger introspection in others. She asks you to question your beliefs, your understanding, your safety and your bias. She disrupts your own sense of peace in order that you understand the aspects of her world that challenge her own. Here, she shares projects that give an insight into those parts of her life and how they affect her sense of peace.