Seif Kousmate

6x6 Africa Talent: Seif Kousmate, Morocco

In only a few years, Seif Kousmate has developed a very beautiful, sensitive social documentary work. Although his work often documents difficult subjects, he succeeds in avoiding the clichés of photojournalism. His work carried out in Rwanda is of great strength and sensitivity.” - Jeanne Mercier, France, art consultant, critic, curator, and 6x6 nominator.

Seif Kousmate is a Moroccan self-taught photojournalist focusing on social issues. For him, photojournalism is his contribution to change mindsets and the world around him. At age 17, he moved to France, studied engineering, and began working in this sector after completing his master’s degree. A few years later, he opened a photography travel blog, sharing his stories and reporting on his journey, and decided to build a career as a professional photographer.

Away from the Dreamland

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification predicts that “some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification,” in addition to those displaced by poverty and political instability around the Sahel. Many of these people see Europe as a safe destination, and Morocco as a safer gateway than Libya to reach the continent by land or sea. In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported at least 6,800 people arrived in Spain through the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, making Spain the primary point of entry by land to Europe.

Away from the Dreamland presents an account of how these numbers play out in real life. “African youth invest their money, health, and life for a chance at living decently in Europe, but often find that the dreamland they envisioned is far removed from the reality they experience once in Europe. This project was born from the experiences I had with these young people on the road, friendships that I have built with them over time, and the evolution of each of the characters during the three years of the project,” says the photographer.

Seydou Macalou (19) returns home after finishing the work in the fields in Sadiola, Mali, on 26 July 2019. Two of Seydou’s brothers live in Europe, which they reached from Morocco by boat. Seydou works in the fields of Sadiola and is eventually planning to leave his hometown because his only other option was gold panning – a dangerous job performed in unhealthy and hazardous conditions. To sustain himself throughout his trip to Europe, Seydou works odd jobs here and there.

Portrait of Oumarou and a hand drawn map of his journey to the European border, Casablanca, Morocco, 15 May 2019. Oumarou first spent time in Algeria, where he worked on farms to earn money, before traveling to Tangier and trying to reach Europe for six months. In November 2015, he moved to Gourougou in Morocco, where he spent three years trying to reach Melilla to no avail. Needing money, Oumarou moved to Rabat to earn enough to head back to Gourougou for more attempts.
Migrants run and hide in an attempt to escape from the Moroccan military in a very early morning on 5 January 2017.
Two Migrants in the informal camp in Fez, Morocco, build a latching mechanism for their sneakers in order to climb the mesh fence that separates them from the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Northern Morocco. Spain added a smaller mesh layer to its fence to stop migrants from easily climbing with their bare hands. So the migrants created a special kit to climb the new fence. They have added bolts to their shoes and have constructed steel hooks to hold in their hands to be able to grip onto the fence. Fez, Morocco, 29 December 2016.

Rwandan Youth, 25 Years After the Genocide

Rwandan Youth, 25 Years After the Genocide, Kousmate explores the rebuilding of a Rwandan nation, forgiving of its past. After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that tore Rwanda apart, a new generation of Rwandans is creating a life and a country devoid of the Hutu and Tutsi heritage divide. They focus on the African and international scene through peace-building programs, a prolific cultural scene, and innovative entrepreneurial projects. With 60 percent of Rwanda’s population under the age of 25 years, the country’s future is in the hands of young Rwandans. 

In addition to their country’s controversial past, young Rwandans face unemployment, poverty, and rising education costs, making their resilience ever more critical. The genocide is still present through memorials and the annual commemoration period, but people want to move beyond their trauma. Their priorities are hope, resilience, and change through peace-building and critical thinking when confronted with divisive or sectarian ideas. 
Tufaha was born in a family of genocide survivors. She is Rwanda’s only professional fencer. She uses sport to foster cohesion and diversity within her community. Kigali, Rwanda, 29 January 2019.

Young girls await during an annual traditional dance competition in the backyard of the Rafiki Youth Center in Nyamirambo, Kigali, Rwanda, on 21 December 2018. Traditional dance is very popular among young Rwandans. Educators use it to foster unity and create cohesion among the younger generation.

Alexis Guisenyi (25) lost his mother during the genocide and was abandoned in an orphanage by his father, who fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He stayed in the orphanage until 2012, when the Rwandan government decided to close all of the country’s orphanages. Alexis now volunteers for an organization that takes care of kids in the Lake Kivu region. Gisenyi, Rwanda, 4 February 2019.
A house with a wooden Christian cross in the Kirehe region, Rwanda, on 17 December 2018. The Church is the second most powerful institution in Rwanda, after the government. A lot of young Rwandans are religious. The church plays an important role in supporting the government’s initiatives for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans affected by the genocide. 

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