Heba Khamis

6x6 Africa Talent:Heba Khamis, Egypt

“Heba Khamis' projects show that she's able to work with very intimate and difficult topics in a compassionate and ethically correct way. Her project ‘Banned Beauty’ about breast ironing in Cameroon is visually strong and challenging. Her project ‘Undocumented’, about sex work in Germany, shows her respect for the people whom she photographs” - Søren Pagter, Denmark, photojournalism department head The Danish School of Media and Journalism and 6x6 nominator

Heba Khamis is an Egyptian storyteller whose work concentrates on social issues that are sometimes ignored. In 2017 Heba participated in World Press Photo Foundation’s Joop Swart Masterclass, was awarded with PHmuseum’s Women Photographers Grant and received an Ian Parry award.

Banned Beauty

‘Banned Beauty’ comes from long-term, and ongoing, visual research that Khamis 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. One out of every five girls is a teenage mother. In an attempt to delay or diminish breast development in young girls, it is common practice for mothers or grandmothers 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 by flattening the girls’ breasts, they will protect them by delaying or hiding the girls’ maturity so that the young girls will appear less attractive to men. There is a fundamental contradiction between the physical pain caused by the practice of breast ironing and the love which motivates the mothers and grandmothers to continue the practice.

Black Birds

For some, crossing borders brings a new life of hope and optimism; for others, it is just the start of a new set of personal borders that are to be crossed. Not so deep in the depths of Berlin’s 520 acre Tiergarten park live undocumented young refugees who hide from deportation or wait - for five to seven years - for refugee status. With no work visa, they live and work in the park as gay sex workers. None of these refugees identify as gay, and many have wives back home. Yet, combined, they see over 100 customers a day: rich and poor, German and foreign. The majority of the park refugees are Shi'a Afghan Hazaras who are persecuted in their home county by the Sunni majority and Taliban extremists. Many grew up in Iran where they were not allowed to go to school or have Iranian nationality because they are Afghan. They were always outsiders, with few or no options to prosper. Most have been undocumented their whole lives.

Discover work by the 6x6 Africa talents, and find out about 6x6’s nomination and selection process.