Navigating self-care, safe spaces, and storytelling through art 


“Building a future that is fair and equitable for everyone, includes spotlighting unheard voices and marginalized artists.”

— Zainab Muse, GenNext Connect host Tweet

On February 24, our amazing host Zainab Muse guided us through a thoughtful conversation with photographer Faisa Omer and multi-disciplinary artist Harar V.A. Hall. Together, we talked about creating community through art and fostering inclusive spaces.  

Indigenous, Queer, Black and racialized folks have been marginalized by systems and policies that don’t include them. These artists are putting their stories front and centre.  

Faisa and Harar are creating work that fractures stereotypes and empowers communities to not only feel represented, but celebrated. At our first GenNext Connect of 2022, we dove into what that means to them.  

Zainab Muse - GenNext Connect Host

“Art is so intrinsic within all of us and it's so intertwined with our environment, our nature, and ourselves.”

— Zainab Muse, GenNext Connect host Tweet

Art is a form of self-care

Art is everywhere. Not only in galleries, but on our social media, the shows we watch, public murals on our streets. You don’t need expensive materials or a fancy camera to get started—just passion and an idea. For many folks, art is an outlet to express themselves.  

Harar uses their poetry to work through life experiences and emotions. Sometimes, it can be a form of therapy that helps us better understand, explore, and cope with how we’re feeling. Being able to find an outlet like that can do a lot for our mental health. 

“Art is such a beautiful expression of the feelings that we are navigating as we move through this world, and also such a beautiful form of communicating those feelings.”

— Harar V.A. Hall, GenNext Connect speaker Tweet

Faisa uses her photography to decompress at the end of the day. During her time as a student at Carleton University, she used her art form to combat the burnout she was feeling. It helped bring her back down to her baseline, and it also created joy in her life.  

“It’s self-care and it keeps me safe.”

— Faisa Omer, GenNext Connect speaker

Make time in your life for self-care. Whether it’s going out for a walk, reading a book in a bubble bath, or hanging out with loved ones. We all deserve to make time for ourselves and things that bring us joy. And maybe art can be that thing for you.   

Creating a safe, inclusive space

Creating a safe and inclusive space can mean different things to different people. Thats something everyone needs to remember when community building with and for others.

Harar V.A. Hall - GenNext Connect Speaker

“It has to be co-created. It has to be people working together to create solutions that work for them.” 

— Harar V.A. Hall, GenNext Connect speaker Tweet

Faisa needed to create a safe space when working on her project, “It’s Different For Us.” Showcasing the effects the pandemic has on youth in southeast Ottawa neighbourhoods, she had to build trust and a level of comfort with the people she was photographing.  

Using her experience as a mental health professional, Faisa talked about the emotional intelligence that goes into understanding how people feel in the moment. Understanding their body language and actively listening can help guide the conversation in ways that make the subject feel more comfortable.

“I pay more attention to the subject and the way they are interacting with me than the photos themselves. It could be a very badly lit photo, but I don't care right now. I care about who's sitting in front of me.”

— Faisa Omer, GenNext Connect speaker Tweet

The power of art

Art is a powerful form of storytelling. Don’t underestimate the impact these stories can make.  

“Everything we do and create is going to have an impact. Maybe it's small, maybe it's big. Maybe the thing you create will inspire a revolution, and maybe it’ll change the way people think and feel and breathe.”

— Harar V.A. Hall, GenNext Connect speaker Tweet

By sharing their stories, feelings, and life experiences, Harar and Faisa draw from a personal place that resonates with others in their communities. It makes folks with similar experiences feel seen and heard. It leaves a lasting impression.  

Faisa Omer - GenNext Connect Speaker

“The primary thing that I try to do with my photography is to humanize subjects. When I think of a legacy, I don’t only think of myself only as a photographer, I think of all the people that share their stories and their faces.”

— Faisa Omer, GenNext Connect speaker Tweet

Watch the full event recording below. Even if you’ve never picked up a camera or a paintbrush, we know you’ll still walk away from this conversation feeling inspired. We know we did. 💕  

We believe everyone deserves to be themselves and have the chance to be heard, included, and supported.

If you do too, consider becoming a GenNext+ monthly donor in support of diversity and inclusion. Together, we can build stronger, more resilient communities, while combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, discrimination, and other issues that prevent people from reaching their full potential.


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