BELONGING

A comfortable house, chairs on a porch, a garden in back — the heart resides here. César Buitrago spends a day with artist, dancer, and model Somali Findlay affirming the bonds of friendship, family, and the power of belonging.

Photography_ César Buitrago

Styling_ Milton Dixon

TEXT_ César Buitrago

 

BELONGING

I drove west from the chaos of NYC to the calm of a suburban Englewood neighborhood. You know the type of place — the one where you said your first words, took your first steps, felt your first kiss, nursed your first heartbreak. From his beige front porch, Somali signaled his welcome with a smile. Immediately the experience of home, family, and belonging emerged, reinforced by a group of inviting chairs on the porch, a big old white painted door, and a well-tended garden beyond. 

What is belonging? The word is defined as an affinity for a place or an experience. But it’s an illusory idea for some souls whose bodies move faster and further than belonging will allow, who are searching for home-away-from-home in a place they went in order to chase a dream, a career, a new reality. 

Personally, I’ve been away from home for many years. But home isn’t just a garden, front porch, or old white door in the neighborhood where I grew up. Home is the emotional support and strength that instilled within me the morals, values, and strength to become the person I am today, the support provided by primos, tíos, mis abuelas, mi mamá — that’s home for me. 

The visit with Somali served as a simple reminder that life can overwhelm us with details, logistics, goals, dreams, and the emotional ties of new relationships at the expense of old ones with childhood friends, siblings, and parents. We often want to belong to new places and yet we forget the old places that nourished us. Telling the visual story of Somali at home with loved ones challenged me to rethink my priorities and to remember my own belonging. 

SOMALI, WHAT DOES ‘BELONGING' MEAN TO YOU?

The need to feel safe and accepted in your community or place of residence.

HOME IS…

Where the heart is.

FAMILY IS…

Where you feel safe and accepted.

FRIENDSHIP IS…

A bond between two beings who strive to never break it, no matter what.

BROTHERHOOD IS…

A pact for life and the journey afterwards.

DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.

My creative process starts through inspiration, followed by an out-of-the-box expansion of that source’s same idea, development of  the tools necessary for the project, and then action.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF ABOUT YOURSELF?

I'm most proud of my authenticity. The person I’m most loyal to is myself.

FAVORITE HAUNTS IN ENGLEWOOD?

My dance school, the supermarket, and my comfortable house. 

A SECRET DREAM YOU HAVE FOR YOUR LIFE.

To fly one day. If that doesn't work, then to own a building that has my middle name, “Power”, on it. 

IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE.

Nurture You, the real you. And to stay safe.

SOMALI WEARS_ PANTS_ MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA_ BEACON’S CLOSET / BOOTS_ MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA_ SS2002_ ARTIFACT NEW YORK
SOMALI WEARS_ SUIT_ 1970S_ BEACON’S CLOSET / SWEATER_ 1970S_ BEACON’S CLOSET / BOOTS_ MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA_ SS2002_ ARTIFACT NEW YORK

SOMALI WEARS_ SHIRT_ COSTUME NATIONAL HOMME_ BEACON’S CLOSET / PANTS_ CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC_ THE REALREAL / SHOES_ MODEL’S OWN
SOMALI WEARS_ TUXEDO JACKET_ BURBERRY_ BEACON’S CLOSET / PANTS_ MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA_ 2000s_ BEACON’S CLOSET / BOOTS_ MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA_ SS2002_ ARTIFACT NEW YORK

SOMALI WEARS_ SHIRT_ COSTUME NATIONAL HOMME_ BEACON’S CLOSET / PANTS_ CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC_ THE REALREAL / SHOES_ MODEL’S OWN

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