Humans of Harker: Love yourself

Farah Hosseini seeks answers in art

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Michelle Liu

“Being able to be vulnerable is something that my mom has taught me. It is necessary to, at times, not be okay, and it’s important to still accept yourself in those moments. Especially when we grow up around a culture where it’s not okay to cry, or to let yourself slip … it’s hard not to make work about that, because that is such a defining point of my life,” Farah Hosseini (12) said.

A soft melody begins to oscillate slowly from the piano, recalling a musical sequence heavy with nostalgia. Crisp musical notes cut through a bright, wavering melody of piano chords, slowly intensifying as the rhythm quickens. Part of the soundtrack from the French film “Amélie,” this song is just one of the many that Farah Hosseini (12) calls her favorites. A radiant smile lights up Farah’s face as she begins talking about the other pieces she loves, ranging from classic Chopin compositions to modern BTS songs. While many may know her for her powerful artwork and fashion choices, music has played an integral role in Farah’s life as well. 

“Everyone has to find that activity where they completely tune in to themselves and can feel their own vibrations, just completely in the moment,” Farah said. “For me, it’s piano. I feel like whenever I’m on the verge of tears, or whenever I don’t feel good about myself, I always just go to the piano, and I just sit there, close my eyes, play a piece and I can literally feel the music just running through me.”

Piano has been a constant for Farah ever since her childhood, and for more than ten years she’s played purely for herself, focusing on each piece until she can play it perfectly. Later, as she started becoming more interested in the visual aspects of art as well, Farah found herself gravitating towards the camera as an artistic outlet. Although this new medium seemed foreign and unnavigable at first, she began to explore using a camera more seriously in sophomore year, when she took a photography class at school.

“[Photography] just truly became a source of joy for me,” Farah said. “I noticed that this could be my platform to speak on what I care about, to speak on my thoughts and my personal experiences, and that’s when I started to let the camera guide me through.”

Farah also began to dabble in fashion design, learning not only how to style garments but to construct them as well. After her sophomore year, she attended a fashion exploration course at the Parsons Summer Intensive Studies program in New York City, the bustling heart of the fashion industry. While at first this new environment felt intimidating and demotivating, Farah found her pulse when she turned back to her roots for the culmination of the course – an assignment to create a dress sewn completely by hand – where she turned to one of her favorite aspects of Afghan culture: weddings. While she loved the beautiful atmospheres of these weddings, Farah also wanted to represent the harsher reality that underlies many of these lively celebrations.

“For a lot of women in Afghanistan, a wedding is not a celebration. It’s basically like being sentenced to prison, when mothers and fathers force their children into marriage,” Farah said. “So on the one hand I wanted to make a dress that signified everything that I loved about my culture, but on the other hand, I wanted to talk about the sufferings of most Afghan women.”

Although Farah had entered the program with no knowledge of fashion design, she confronted the challenge with persistence. Hand-stitching late into each night, she learned how to create garments from scratch within the span of three weeks. Crafting her final assignment required hours of work and many early-morning coffees, but Farah’s experiences, and struggles, shone through in her final product, a lustrous emerald green cocktail dress bejeweled at the waist-band. Farah’s brother, Haris Hosseini (‘19), notes that this has been a constant for Farah; she always strives to execute her vision fully in every one of her works. 

“She really doesn’t put half effort into anything, whether it’s school, or an extracurricular or just a project,” Haris said. “She gives her all to everything she does, so she works for everything she gets.”

Upper school visual arts teacher and Farah’s adviser Joshua Martinez has also seen Farah grow as an artist over the past few years. After Farah took his photography class in sophomore year, Martinez has served as an artistic mentor for her, advising Farah in filmmaking and AP Studio Art classes as well. 

“Her willingness to try things in her work, to experiment with new ideas and take steps into the unknown is definitely increasing over time in a way that I think is inspiring,” Martinez said.  “She is fearless in that way.”

Fashion has also served as a mode of expression for Farah, especially throughout high school. Known for her confident fashion choices, she loves exploring different ways to style clothes, citing Parisian and Hollywood glamour as inspirations. When shelter-in-place orders took place earlier this year, Farah slowly began to see her style evolving. The rise of social media’s influence and its categorical definitions for beauty, clothing and lifestyle have led her to reconcile with her own sense of style over the past few months.  

“I felt like the problem was that I was trying to fit that mold, and [I] still am,” Farah said. “It was hard for me to comprehend what defined my style, or why I dress the way that I do, and I realized that I felt uniquely me, and I felt most like myself, when I wore what I felt the most comfortable in, what I love to wear.”

Rediscovering her style during quarantine has been only one small step in the journey of self-acceptance for Farah. Just as the standards of social media often represent a misleading version of reality, Farah believes that embracing imperfections plays an important role in her life. To express the struggles that she and many other youth experience with body image and self-perception, Farah turns to her artwork. 

“Being able to be vulnerable is something that my mom has taught me,” Farah said. “It is necessary to, at times, not be okay, and it’s important to still accept yourself in those moments. Especially when we grow up around a culture where it’s not okay to cry, or to let yourself slip … it’s hard not to make work about that, because that is such a defining point of my life.”

Underneath everything, Farah’s choices are ultimately most influenced by her caring personality. She takes care of those around her in the best way that she can, putting their comfort and safety in front of her own and always making sure to be there for whoever needs her.

I would say that she is definitely someone you can rely on. She is someone you can trust for whatever you need,” close friend Arya Tandon (12) said. “She’s a really down to earth person; she genuinely cares about people, which I love, and you can see it in whatever she does.”