Ahmed Abushakeema – Documenting Diversity in a Changing Sudan
Documenting Diversity in a Changing Sudan
The first photo Ahmed remembers taking – the stepping stone to his 2016 project, A Thousand Faces of Sudan – was that of a 40-year old man standing next to a train in Khartoum.
Since then, after taking an average of two portraits a week, some at random, some staged and others on request, he has amassed a frank and tender archive of Sudanese facial features, aimed at celebrating the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of his country; a diversity he fears is under-represented in both public space and discourse. His determination to remind his fellow countrymen and women that Sudan is not a cultural monolith took on particular relevance in the 2019 revolution and coincided with a flowering of artistic expression among young Sudanese.
Below, screenshots from the Sudania 24 TV interview with Ahmed Abushakeema, featuring his work. Scroll down to watch the interview in full.
Unlike Humans of NY which include biographical profiles of it subjects, Ahmed insisted on keeping his subjects anonymous; “It’s about their face and how it represents a part of the country’s population”, rather than an individual’s life story. Nevertheless, there is an empathy and affection in his portraits which hint at a myriad untold stories. He acknowledges that most photos were taken in Khartoum and always with permission – if with some gentle cajoling on occasion.
See too A Thousand Faces of Sudan in Sudan Retold, pp 150-165
“The thing about taking a photo is that it freezes time at the one specific moment you want others to observe with you, or refer back to it whenever they want to.” Ahmed needs to document each version of the country as continues to evolve.”
Watch the brief interview (Arabic only) with Ahmed Abushakeema below. An English summary is available on request.
A Tribute to Ahmed Abushakeema’s Work
Over the past six years I have been traveling to Sudan with our women’s literacy program. During my visits, I have been blessed to meet and get to know many wonderful Sudanese men and women living and working in Khartoum. Below is a small personal tribute to Abushakeema’s work. All photos are copyright Imogen Thurbon and were taken with permission and in a spirit of respect and gratitude. Please do not reproduce any photos of real people below without written permission.
Street Murals and Portraits in Khartoum Khartoum’s Changing Street Furniture Some Personal Portraits
Street Murals and Portraits in Khartoum
See more in Mosaics of the City
New and Old Faces – Khartoum’s Changing Street Furniture
Some Personal Portraits
Omdurman and Friday Dhikr Worship at the Mahdi’s Tomb
Dongola Neighbours, mid-1980s
See more in Scenes from Sudan’s Northern Province.
And Meroe, mid-1980s
Khartoum – Morning Coffee Companions
The Blessings of Hospitality