SHEIKH~Fazal. ‘Ramadan Moon’*


Author: Sheikh~Fazal
Publisher: Uitgever Steidl, Göttingen
Year: 2001
ISBN: 0-9707613-1-7

Hardcover, pp. 58; English (Winterthur: Volkart Foundation), 2001. 8vo., pictorial endpapers, numerous full-page b&w photos, plus 24 pp. pamphlet laid in. Paper over boards.  Pamphlet text in Somali and Dutch.Edition: First ed.
Condition: as new
Breaking with tradition in merging book with reader, Fazal Sheikh (A Sense of Common Ground, The Victor Weeps: Afghanistan) does not require that you buy his books. In fact, his books are available, complete and free of charge, on his website (www.fazal Making it as easy as possible for potential readers to engage in the life-changing experience of viewing his photographs, and reading the personal essays that accompany them, he's even eliminated the download time. You can read them directly from the site.

How can he do this? Sheikh's books are published not out of a desire to turn a profit, but out of an even deeper need to alert people to the difficult lives of their sisters and brothers around the globe. In the past year, Sheikh, with support from the Swiss-based Volkart Foundation, conceived a series of book projects aimed at increasing awareness of human rights. All proceeds from book sales are donated to human rights organizations that work with refugees around the world.

A Camel for the Son and Ramadan Moon (both available with translation inserts in both Somali and Dutch) are just the latest installations in Sheikh's photojournalistic crusade to inspire justice and a sense of humanity for the displaced women and men he captures on film. The traveling exhibitions, which coincide with the book's release, can be seen at Northwestern University's Block Museum in Evanston, from April 11th through June 23rd.

Sheikh traveled to Kenya in 1991 in the midst of war. What he found on Kenya's Northern Frontier, where it border's war-torn Somalia, was a sea of Somali refugees fleeing conflict and drought. Over the next decade, Sheikh witnessed an entire generation of Somali children raised in exile and their mothers--left alone by the conflict and struggling to raise families--go virtually ignored.

Camel is an homage to those women. In a series of stunning photographs, accompanied by first-person accounts of these women's haunting experiences, Sheikh honors these refugees as warriors in their own right, fighting to hold onto their families, their faith and the way of life to which they someday hope to return.

Ramadan Moon tells the story of Seynab Azir Wardeere and her five-year-old son, Mohammed, who were among those fortunate enough to flee Kenya before being killed, but not before Wardeere was violently raped and tortured, and saw her father murdered. The book follows her to Osdorp, Holland, with no money, food, friends or knowledge of the language. She arrived during Ramadan--Islam's holiest month--a traditional time for celebration with family and friends. "Allah is the Protector and Guardian of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light." Passages from the Koran are interwoven with long-exposure images of the Ramadan night sky and images of Wardeere that illuminate her strength without hiding her scars.

Sheikh, a New Yorker of Kenyan and Pakistani descent, resists the cliche stereotyping of his subjects by avoiding desperate images of tattered emaciation. Instead, his deeply personal work invites the women and children, friends and families, to become more than mere subjects and participate in sharing the stories of their struggle.

Samiya A. Bashir is the author of Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Art & Literature.

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