Refugee turned supermodel challenges anti-migrant rhetoric

Even though the Hungarian government’s anti-migration rhetoric is not subsiding, a documentary about a young Somali refugee who became a fashion model received wide acclaim from Hungarians.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Refugee turned supermodel challenges anti-migrant rhetoric - NewsMavens
Kafiya Said Mahdi, YouTube

Why this story matters:

Hungary's right-wing government is tirelessly trying to depict migrants as a faceless horde that wants to invade “Christian Europe". But Kafiya Said Mahdi’s story shows Hungarians a different side of migration and what it means to be a refugee.

She fled Somalia at the age of 14 with the help of her mother, after her stepfather attempted to force her to marry a much older man.

That the documentary "Easy Lessons" about her journey to Hungary has been widely praised is not only refreshing, but also shows that there is an audience for refugee stories in Hungary despite the loud anti-migrant rhetoric.

Mahdi could soon reach a much larger audience since she appeared on the cover of Marie Claire Hungary’s November issue. To feature a Somali refugee who also happens to be a black woman -- a rare occurrence in Hungarian media -- carries a strong message.

Details from the story:

  • The documentary was directed by Dorottya Zurbo, a young female filmmaker. It follows Mahdi’s life as she adapts to life in Hungary.
  • Mahdi arrived in Budapest as an unaccompanied minor. At the Hungarian orphanage where she was transferred, her professors and mostly Roma classmates eased her loneliness.
  • In the documentary she “talks” to her mother through inner monologues and tells her about the difficulties she is facing as she is at the border of two cultures: she is adapting to a Hungarian lifestyle, has learnt how to swim, wears a swimming suit and has gotten to know Christianity.
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