6_28_21 / Vintage
Artist, dancer, and model Somali Findlay spends a day with photographer César Buitrago discussing the bonds of friendship, family, community, and the power of belonging.
TEXT + Photography_ César Buitrago
Styling_ Milton Dixon
Models_ Somali Findlay (IMG) / Mbili Findlay / Carol Findlay / Joel Batchelor
What do new experiences mean to us? Do we meet them with expectation, defiance, fear, excitement or hopefulness? Does the heart pound with romanticized ideals while the mind plays out more humble, realistic scenarios? In the case of my visit with Somali Findlay and his family, the encounter was profound; it exceeded my romantic ideals and left me with a set of reminders, a new perspective, and hope.
We drove west from the chaos of a bustling city to the calm of a suburban 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, a big old white painted door, a well-tended garden.
...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, tios, mis abuelas, mi mamá — that’s home for me.
From time to time I neglect those experiences, memories, and people in my attempt to chase a dream, a career, a new reality. That’s why the experience of meeting Somali and his family was so profound. I was welcomed into the unknown but witnessed there a familiar love for home that reminded me of my own sense of belonging. The visit 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.
LIST THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU.
Unique, creative, and passionate.
WHAT DOES ‘BELONGING' MEAN TO YOU?
The need to feel safe and accepted in your community or place of residence.
Where the heart is.
Where you feel safe and accepted.
A bond between two beings who strive to never break it, no matter what.
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.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION?
My most prized possession is my lion ring, since I'm a Leo.
WHAT INSPIRED THE COLOR IN YOUR CHILDHOOD BEDROOM?
The color blue for me has always been a calming color, being that life can get so busy and hectic, it's vital to have a calm environment to retire to at the end of the day.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
Streetwear mixed with a little class; calm and casual, but in the mix at the same time.
FAVORITE HAUNTS IN ENGLEWOOD?
My dance school, the supermarket, and my comfortable house.
FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH?
The islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
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 stay safe.