It’s hard for me to explain why I can not take just a few photos and leave, and if I’m not careful, it can create a feeling as if I’m disturbing someone. Sometimes people keep their thoughts to themselves, but I feel their silence echoing. And I do not like this feeling..
I do not wear a hijab. I cover up when my hair is dry, but my sister Nasiha from Pakistan, she wears a scarf every day. Sometimes she wears the one both of us can hide under when it rains. She decided to cover up when she moved to Ohio, where we met. And it is there I witnessed those who accepted her, and those who looked at her differently because of who she was in the depths of her soul—a believer.
Her decision to protect herself with a hijab, also meant not to shake hands with men. And if we did not manage to explain in time why she didn’t shake hands, it would mean that I’d jump from one end of the room to the other and stand between her and anyone who wanted to shake her hand. Sometimes it would be funny, and sometimes it might have been rude, but it was important to me that she didn’t feel bad for who she was.
That’s why when one day at the mosque, these girls attacked me for taking photographs, my sister, like a bodyguard, defended my photography.
So it was obvious when Amina Pivic invited me to photograph Hijab Day at the Sejmen mosque in Zenica, that I decided to walk through my city with a scarf. It wasn’t strange, but it was very interesting to see people who admired me, acquaintances who did not recognize me, and those who recognized me and ignored me. Some were surprised, but the most beautiful moment was the reaction from friends I have not seen in a long time, and instead of asking, ‘Did I cover myself and why,’ I just got a hug and we drank coffee.
Can you now imagine the reactions women face who wear a hijab, not because of fashion or some inspiration, but because they feel it’s part of who they are?!
When I arrived to the mosque the other day, I felt when I was photographing, that all the women opened their hearts, believed that the photos are not going to be misused, and let me photograph as much as I needed to. Actually, they completely accepted who I was, a photographer. It reminded me when the Islamic Center in Bowling Green opened its door to all my photo friends. That’s the greatest gift a photographer can have, to feel welcomed, because it is not easy to trust someone you meet for the very first time.
But do you only know how wonderful it feels to be accepted?!
Some people pray on the street, some pray secretly or at home. Somebody stops in Zagreb in a small tunnel to say a prayer in front of the Holy Mary. Some do not even pray. But everyone does as they feel. So then, why do we judge?
I never made Nasiha take photos, like I made her pray when I moonwalked one night. 🙂 She simply took my camera one day in Washington and took a photo of hundreds of birds flying..
Don’t you love when you hear the voice of people who accept you as you are?
Because of Nasihas who do not try to make you or me into something that they are, but who simply want to be themselves without being judged, on the Hijab Day, I covered myself. This day was organized in my hometown and sung in the most beautiful voices of Amina and her sisters.
I called Nasiha to tell her I was wearing a scarf, and she did not believe me. She tells me, my hair was probably just dirty. The secret of our friendship and love is that we fully accepted each other exactly as we are from the moment we met.
I am Dijana, and my duty as a photographer is to convey the truth and show moments of life.