Meryem considers herself Rotterdammer before anything else. She built her life on these grounds and she lives among her chosen family. Yet, the struggle continued in finding her place. Through working with her mom she celebrates their shared otherness.
‘Family is more than a blood relation. It is being home, feeling safe and accepted. That you can be who you are without people judging you. I had a bit of a false start in life in that sense. Soon after I was born I lived with my grandparents in Morocco until I was three years old. From the moment when I moved back to The Netherlands to live with my parents in a little village, I have felt out of sorts. I felt a detachment from my parents and constantly wondered “am I Dutch or Moroccan?”. I never felt at ease until I started to visit Rotterdam. Instantly I knew: This is where I belong. It is a tough place to get to know, just like me, but once you’re in, you’re home.
Through working with my mom, we can be together in a different way. We are rebuilding our relationship. I see her because I photograph her, she sees me because she photographs me. The images that come out are strong and powerful because that’s how I see my mom.
I hope I can be for others what the people of Rotterdam were for me when I first came here. The people I felt at home with were heroes of some kind, they made me feel like I belonged.Representation matters and our presence shows a new perspective within fashion and culture. Our images touch upon religion, political stance and feminism. They go to the bond between mothers and daughters, modern looking Muslim women wearing a head-scarf.
Whoever you are, whatever it is that you connect to, what I want to say is that your otherness is something to be proud of. Don’t conform to the established order. My mom is such a powerhouse in that respect. She is a very sweet and modest woman, until she isn’t. “I am proud, I am here,” is a belief that lives within her.'