Prints from the series Sufis: The day of al-Ziyara (Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography)
- Art Funded
- Each 30 x 40 cm
- Issa Touma
This is an Art Fund initiative for the British Museum and V&A to acquire a collection of 20th century and contemporary photography and digital images by artists from the Middle East (whether living in their countries of origin or outside). The Art Fund has given the two museums grants over £150,000 for the collection and additional support for the tour of the collection. Touma's photography looks at the presence of government, everyday life and religious ceremony in Syria. For the last ten years he has photographed the Sufi procession of the Rifa'i brotherhood, the day of al-Ziyara, made in honour of the Sufi teacher Al-Sheikh Abou Bakr Al-Huwari. Sufism is a mystical order of Islam. Pilgrims visit the shrine of the Holy Marabout, and perform music, dance, song and mystical rituals. The culmination of the procession is the spectacle of the mortification of the flesh; a self-inflicted wounding which is seen as an extreme act of faith. While this Sufi meeting is on the margins of mainstream Islamic religious traditions, it nevertheless remains popular. As he became accepted by the group, Toumas photographs reflected increased intimacy, and he placed himself at the heart of the activity in the procession. His images demonstrate familiarity and ease with his subjects, often showing them at close-range. The images selected here have been chosen to show various stages in the sequence of the procession.