To seek is to attempt to find something. Humans are naturally prone to seek external validation in people and material things. We often need to pay more attention to the most essential place to see what we're looking for. Within. Since the beginning of COVID, like many of us, we've evolved, changed, and grown to become better versions of ourselves. Our environments played a considerable role just before the world went into lockdown in the spring of 2020. I was able to sneak into New Zealand. I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready for an adventure. Though I didn't anticipate the journey of isolation, mentally and physically, New Zealand is special for many reasons, including its being quite literally located at the edge of the world, the mana of the land, the rich culture within Māori, Polynesian, and Melanesian people, and its generally chill culture.
One of the first thoughts I had when arriving was, "Where are the Black people?" I was hunting to find a community as my living company was majority Pākehā. I was seeking to understand the different dynamics and identities of Black people globally, and through that, I noticed something missing within the rangatahi in the NZ African community. There wasn't much Black-centered media coverage—only a push in the music industry at the time. I wanted to be a catalyst in changing this, so I wanted to start in a space that I believed to be the most powerful outlet for change. Art. Creating accurate visibility by producing content in which Afro Kiwis can reap in their light and see their beauty within modes of storytelling.
Although I got so caught up in helping others find themselves, I "Tried to be a million things, and in that, I forget who I am… I let myself get blurred in with the rest of the crowd, forgetting who I am."
Aaraf wears Hilda Ereaut coat
I needed to relax and find myself but didn't know how. I was using other people as a form of escapism. I didn't understand the mental weight of my being in a foreign country at 19, with no family during a pandemic. The belittlement and isolation of my now 22 years of age, of someone trying to lead me to forget who I am and remove my voice. Whether through the media's projection of false narratives, direct bullying, hate crimes, or anti-black behaviour.
The most powerful thing one can have is knowing they have all the power one ever needed.
The power one holds within and the light that comes with it. I came to this understanding at a young age, although I didn't practice what I preached for myself. It wasn't until after I left New Zealand that I fully delved into my light. This was done through healing modalities such as art therapy, mediations, walks, and focusing on things that bring me joy. Because this light was planted in me the day I was born, my light only continued to grow infinitely. This light guides me through turbulent times; it is the focal point of my confidence; it keeps my mental health afloat. My light is my protection to know who I am and my rights when anyone even attempts to take them away from me. I must constantly remind myself and others like me never to forget who we are and always claim our identity.
Aaraf wears Hilda Ereaut dress, Hanan wears Hilda Ereaut coat
Before seeing myself, I had never felt lost and confused about how I got to such a low point. No trust in anyone. No friends or family who knew how down bad I was. I kept running, yet I didn't know where to go. I kept waiting for something to happen. Everything was so unknown, and it still is. It's hard to pinpoint your final destination when you still try and seek God through it all.
So I keep looking at the clouds seeking signs, signs of validation. I stare and get lost when looking at the ravens, also known as Corvus. I think of how they're black and just like me. The connotations of ravens: I also think of how clever they are, how they are also often seen in pairs– in the company of each other.
I went on to ask my dear friend Hanan what she hears about the word seek:
Seeking to me is seeing that spark in the dark and following it with the hope that it will illuminate the future.
Hanan wears Hilda Ereaut top & Aaraf wears Hilda Ereaut dress
What are you seeking at this stage of your life?
What light do friendships bring into your life?
Sometimes you can't forget your past, but you can create your path of infinite possibilities. I am creating a new pathway of residence to heal yourself. By trusting my family, I'm able to see my family and see that my friends are my community. I'm reminded of our power and ability to accept and appreciate those who have supported and empowered me– those who shine their light only to brighten mine.
I can look at my reflection and realise that to see others. First, I have to see myself. Since finding myself, I have sought and found my true friends.
The delicacy and love in my light space assisted me in accepting myself. I regard myself as an essential part of history. We're all fragments yearning for recognition and appreciation for our distinct presence. When I look in the mirror, I remember being part of someone's heritage. I learned to understand the world by looking within and never ignoring my inner voice. That voice inspires me to persevere in the face of adversity. Look within yourself for honesty and genuineness. As I am the embodiment of boundless strength and opportunity, you seek your own volition.
Words: Aaraf Adam
Director & Photographer: Emma Anderson
Editor: Jake Williams
Sound: Felix Tanyi and AJRadico
Shot on Location in Harlem, New York