Chris van Laak
documentary photography
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HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
1/32     Just by its name, Somalia evokes negative images. To many Somalia is synonymous to failed state. It seems to be the prime example for a society that tragically took a wrong turn somewhere.

Hamda lives in Somaliland. Spirits are high on a Friday evening in the town of Saylac.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
2/32     Indeed Somaliland and Somalia sound pretty similar. To anyone unfamiliar with East Africa, it might not be obvious that there are differences at all. Reality in Somalia, in Somaliland, and inside all political entities in which the Somali population in the Horn of Africa Region lives, can be quite complex, but there is also a whole lot of ordinary life.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
3/32     The northern part of what the map shows as Somalia, calls itself Somaliland and is de facto independent since the early 1990s.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
4/32     Somalilanders take pride in their independence, and in the peace and stability of their country, even though the situation isn't always easy. Access to global markets is limited due to the status of Somaliland - its independence isn't recognized by the international community. The whole region around the Horn of Africa is inhabited by ethnic Somalis. That includes Somaliland, Somalia in all it's parts and pieces, Djibouti, as well as parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Between Somaliland and the Ethiopian region close to the mutual border, relations are close. Ethnic Somalis live on both sides, and travel and trade is frequent.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
5/32     Most commercial goods have to be imported to Somaliland. Buses on the Ethiopian side of the border are highly frequented by Somalilanders traveling back and forth, trading goods in quantities that can be carried on public buses. Traders are often specialised on certain, sometimes quite random items, like for example homeopathic beauty products.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
6/32     Livestock is the main, and in fact the virtually only commodity that Somaliland produces.

Goats are traded on the the biggest livestock market in the Horn of Africa region in Burao.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
7/32     Small-scale livestock trade can be seen everywhere, at the roadside in small towns as well as in the streets of the capital Hargeisa.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
8/32     Domestic animals are part of every street scene in Somaliland.

A boy in Mandera has fetched two chickens.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
9/32     Somaliland is prone to drought, as annual precipation with rain differs significantly from one year to the other. In recent years 80% of domestic livestock has been lost due to drought.

The highlands, in which the small town of Sheikh is situated, get relatively much rain - but in recent years it has not nearly been enough.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
10/32     Camel trade is a highly regarded business and traditionally trade relations go far beyond the region. Also here, trading volumes have been affected.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
11/32     In Wajale, at the border with Ethiopia, goats are traded only in small numbers. The Ethiopian Somali-Region on the other side of the border doesn't offers much stability, which adversely affects livestock-trade between Somaliland and Ethiopia, as well as any other kind of large-scale trade.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
12/32     While Somaliland has managed remarkably well to stay out of trouble in the troubled Horn of Africa region, the scarcity of natural resources might fuel new and old conflicts, it causes migration and forces people to change their lifestyles.

Nomadic settlement have been abandoned.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
13/32     Water is scarce. In January the little creeks around Laforuugh are among the very few in the western part of the country that carry water.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
14/32     At this time of the year, during the dry season, trade has slowed down. The main season for livestock trade is around Ramadan, and in 2018 it will reach its peak in May and June.

International conflicts affect the economy furthermore. An Indian shipping crew carries furniture from Aden in Yemen to Berbera in Somaliland amidst the raging war on the other side of the Red Sea - a relatively rare thing these days. On their way back, they will carry goats and cattle on their small vessel.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
15/32     Yemeni refugees in Somaliland are hard to number. While they are safe here, their situation is precarious.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
16/32     A family, that wants to be known by the name Al Nakhlani, spends the afternoon in their new temporary home in Hargeisa. Their chances in participating in social life outside the Yemeni community are limited.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
17/32     A lot of social life happens inside the family, inside the extended family, and inside the clan.

Life in the streets of the capital slows down in the early afternoon hours, when shops close for a few hours. Now goats outnumber people in the streets.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
18/32     The Somali society safeguards muslim traditions, but women formally have access to all positions in society - except for the president's office.

Samira is a high school student in Sheikh and prepares for her final exams. She would love to leave her small hometown for a college education in one of the busier cities such as Bosasso, Burao or Hargeisa.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
19/32     The port city of Berbera is another commercial hub of the country.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
20/32     A fisherman is wearing a t ‑ shirt printed with campaign slogans for the most recent presidential election, which was held in November 2017. Merchandise of the winning party is common sight in Somaliland few months after the election, which was considered mostly free and fair by international observers.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
21/32     Saylac, in the very west of Somaliland seem far away from the centers of the country. While English is widely spoken in the Somaliland, as it used to be a British colony from 1880 to 1960, many people in Saylac prefer speaking French to foreigners. The former French colony of Djibouti is less than an hour away from here and many parents send their children to go to school there.

Abdirahman stays in his hometown only for an extended weekend.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
22/32     Some domestic animals prefer eating cardboard boxes, even if other food items seem available. This is probably the result of a shortage of some food items which are naturally part of their diet.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
23/32     While most amenities are available - everything is a question of the wallet, just like anywhere else - Somalilanders hope for positive developments through international trade, which will lead to more prosperity. Somaliland depends on developments in other countries in the troubled region.

Trucks transport goods between the port of Berbera and Hargeisa, and sometimes further into Ethiopia, or from Ethiopia via Hargeisa to the port in Berbera.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
24/32     While Somaliland enjoys stability and manages well to defend itself, Somaliland often feels like being on hiatus. Many men in Somaliland chew Khat, a slightly narcotic plant imported from Ethiopia.

While chewing Khat is surely also tradition, other traditional lifestyles are retreating.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
25/32      Khader, who grew up as a nomad, runs a small shop at the roadside between Berbera and Hargeisa. When traffic and trade is low, there is plenty of time for taking care of livestock that is left.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
26/32     National Highway No.1 is well maintained. Villages and settlement off the main routes are only accessible by dirt tracks.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
27/32     When asked about the future of the country, many Somalilanders will probably mention the potential of international livestock trade. On the Somaliland side, improvements in the infrastructure and smart solutions against the effects of drought will be necessary.

Abdirahman is overseeing a truckload of cows close to a quarantine facility outside Barbera.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
28/32     Besides the dangers of drought, it is mostly the instability in international relations that is adverse to Somaliland's living assets on the world market.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
29/32     Boys on the market in Burao are waiting for better times with a steadier supply of goods. While relations with the Somalian government in Mogadishu, which claims Somaliland as theirs, is naturally difficult, plans for expanding trade relations include stronger ties to the markets there.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
30/32     On an area as big as England and Wales combined, there are about 3 Million Somalilanders. Many diaspora Somalis have recently returned to Somaliland, bringing back knowledge, funds and ideas.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
31/32      While elementary and high school education is free for all young Somalilanders, many parents dream of a higher quality education for their kids abroad. In general, the desire for leaving the country at least temporally is still strong.

A teacher at Al Irahad Girls Primary School in Hargeisa is overseeing the student's arrival in the morning.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
32/32     Developing a country like Somaliland for the better takes many small and many big initiatives, and it takes time and patience.

By law, single use plastic bags have been banned from shops in the country in October 2017, but a clean desert is still a few steps away.

Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos
Dec 2017 - Feb 2018   All Photos