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  • Fazal Sheikh, Dawn along the Yamuna
  • Fazal Sheikh, Latitude 31_21_7_N

Homelands and Histories - Fazal Sheikh Photography at MFAH

May 2, 2017
Eli Anapur is a pseudonym of Biljana Puric. A staff writer and editor at Widewalls, Biljana holds Master’s Degrees in Film Aesthetics from the University of Oxford, and Gender Studies from the Central European University. She has published academic articles as well as art and film reviews and criticism in New Eastern Europe, ARTMargins, the Journal of Curatorial Studies, and Short Film Studies; she has also contributed illustrations for Argus Magazine.

Amidst the current refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, and the tightening of immigration rules and regulations around the world, Fazal Sheikh photography brings us closer to the face that is bearing the strain of these changes – the face of the displaced and the marginalized. The major acquisition of 75 photographs by this prolific artist is made possible by a generous grant from Jane P. Watkins, and is a reason behind the exhibition Homelands and Histories: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), that will open this May. The acquired works span decades and continents, and come from several of Sheikh’s key projects that mark his artistic career.

international portraits of human nakba independence from international foundation trilogy.  contact york rights for work
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Abdul Aziz, Holding a Photograph of His Brother, Mula Abdul Hakim, Afghan Refugee Village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, from the series The Victor Weeps, 1998, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Labhuben, Gujarat, India, from the series Ladli, 2007, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh

A Portraitist of Uncommon Sensitivity

Fazal Sheikh has been documenting lives of people from around the world for several decades, focusing on the displaced and marginalized communities from South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. His photographs show a deep respect for subjects he is capturing, coupled with a deep sense of shared humanity. He was not taking his photos on the go, so to speak, but would rather spend weeks, months, or even years with his subjects, immersing himself into lives, customs, and circumstances that surround them. Understanding of a culture was of a paramount importance to Fazal Sheikh, and his work acquired by MFAH, displays just that – an uncommon sensitivity towards essential elements of individual and communal identity.

The exhibition Homelands and Histories will feature photographs from Early Work, A Sense of Common Ground, A Camel for the Sun, The Victor Weeps, Moksha, Ladli, Ether, and Erasure series. The photographs will be accompanied by the texts that the artist recorded and later transcribed, including the audio recordings in which Sheikh reads his subjects’ personal testimonies. These editions were created from the late 1980s onwards in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Malawi, Pakistan, India, Israel, and Palestine. Moving from refugee camps to holy Indian city of Vrindavan, and from Negev Desert to the ruins caused by the Arab-Israeli war, Fazal Sheikh captured the unfaltering face of resistance and resilience, present on all meridians.

Night Walking in Benares
Fazal Sheikh – Night-Walking in Benares, India, from the series Ether, 2008–12, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh

Fazal Sheikh Photography and Life

Currently living and working in Zurich, Fazal Sheikh was born in New York City in 1965, and studied photography at the University of Princeton, under Emmet Gowin. He started documenting the lives of different individuals and communities as a photographer in 1987, taking his camera with him around the world. His professional career has been marked with numerous awards and fellowships, such as Fulbright, MacArthur, Guggenheim, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. He is also the recipient of honors that acknowledge the essential humanism of his work, such as Prix Dialogue de l’Humanité, Rencontres d’Arles (2003), the Lou Stoumen Prize (2016), and the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2009), among others.

international york portraits of human nakba independence at foundation trilogy
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Israeli, Born in 1948, the Year of the Creation of the State of Israel; Right: Fazal Sheikh 0 Palestinian, Born in 1948, the Year of the Creation of the State of Israel, from the series Independence/Nakba 2013, inkjet prints, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh

Homelands and Histories – Photographs by Fazal Sheikh at MFAH

The exhibition titled Homelands and Histories: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on May 6th, and remains on view until September 4th, 2017. The exibiiton will be staged in two galleries in the Audrey Jones Beck Building.

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Left: Fazal Sheikh – Abshiro Aden Mohammed, Women’s Leader, Somali Refugee Camp, Dagahaley, Kenya, from the series A Camel for the Son, 2000, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Ajoh Achot and Achol Manyen, Sudanese Refugee Camp, Lokichoggio, Kenya, from the series A Sense of Common Ground, 1992, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
 Afghan Refugee Village Right
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Rohullah, Afghan Refugee Village, Badabare, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, from the series The Victor Weeps, 1997, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Simran, New Delhi, India, from the series Ladli, 2007, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
 Latitude_31_1_5_N
Fazal Sheikh – Latitude: 31°1’5”N / Longitude: 34°57’5”E — Staining of Prior Animal Enclosures Marking Successive Years of Habitation, Unrecognized Bedouin Village of Rakhma, Live-Fire Training Zone, the Negev, from the series Desert Bloom, November 14, 2011, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
Rodi with Roses
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Anisa Ahmad Jāber Mahamīd,  Umm el-Fahem, from the series Memory Trace, 2012, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Rodi with Roses, Streets of Delhi, India, from the series Ladli, 2008, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
Bhajan Ashram at Dawn
Fazal Sheikh – Bhajan Ashram at Dawn, Vrindavan, India,detail, from the series Moksha, 2005, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
Left Hadija and Her Father Right FLifta
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Hadija and Her Father, Badel Addan Gadel, Somali Refugee Camp, Mandera, Kenya, from the series A Camel for the Son, 1993, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Lifta, Jerusalem District, from the series Memory Trace, 2012, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
Night Walking in Benares
Fazal Sheikh – Night-Walking in Benares, India, from the series Ether, 2008–12, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh
 Abshiro Aden Mohammed joh Achot and Achol Manyen
Left: Fazal Sheikh – Afghan Boy Born in Exile, Afghan Refugee Village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, from the series The Victor Weeps, 1998, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh / Right: Fazal Sheikh – Pramila Satar (‘Lover’), Vrindavan, India, from the series Moksha, 2005, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. © Fazal Sheikh

Featured images: Fazal Sheikh – Dawn along the Yamuna, Vrindavan, India, detail, from the series Moksha, 2005, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins.Latitude: 31°21’7”N / Longitude: 34°46’27” E—Earthwork in Preparation for the Planting of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Ambassador Forest on the Site of the Erased Homesteads of the Abu Jāber, Abu Mdīghem, and Abu Freih Families, Unrecognized Bedouin Village of al-’Araqib, the Negev, from the series Desert Bloom, October 9, 2011, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Jane P. Watkins. All images courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.