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Somaliland: A Land In Limbo

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A boy takes his family's camels out to graze in the Somaliland countryside. Image by Narayan Mahon, Somaliland, 2009.

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Me and women walk through the bustling central market in Hargeisa, passing war-damaged buildings. Image by Narayan Mahon, Somaliland, 2009.

by Coburn Dukehart

Photojournalist Narayan Mahon has been working on an ongoing project called Lands In Limbo to document the state of what he calls "unrecognized countries." According to Mahon, these de-facto states have broken away from their parent countries, but are still waiting for international recognition as independent lands.

Over the years, his self-funded journeys have taken him to Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, Trandsniestra, Nagorno Karabakh and Somaliland.

Mahon traveled to Somaliland in 2008 and 2009 to document its political, cultural, and social landscape. His second trip was on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and he teamed up with a writer and fixer to navigate the country. Ironically, Mahon says it was when he was traveling alone in 2008 that he was able to make the most meaningful images. He said he felt more free to move about the country, and had better intimate access into people's lives.

"I wanted to show daily life as best I could as an outsider," he said. "I wanted to show the functionality of the place."

Mahon believes that Somaliland is succeeding as an independent state in ways that the other "lands in limbo" haven't achieved. Although not formally recognized by the international community, Somaliland claims their own money, their own passports, and have developed their own system of rule independent of Somalia.

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