Belgian photographer challenges mindsets about Islam

Published: February 15, 2016
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Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine. Women come to the shrine with   requests. PHOTO: François Struzik

Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine. Women come to the shrine with requests. PHOTO: François Struzik

In a world increasingly gripped by fear and rising apprehensions against Islam, Belgian photographer Francois Struzik dares you to see things differently.

In his exhibition titled ‘Voyage Sacre’, Struzik takes us on a journey through, Kosovo, Morocco, India, Kashmir, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Though his interactions in these countries are completely diverse, the photographer’s eyes seek the deeply human side rather than the unusual or different.

Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali Shrine in the mountains of Kashmir. Each family honours a particular saint and some saint might be devoted to particular causes, Srinagar. PHOTO: François Struzik

‘Voyage Sacre’ is a long journey in a varied cultural space — “diverse and contradictory.” Spread across the gallery in Alliance Française, printed in black and white, the photographs are engaging, almost melancholic that will force you to stay back a little bit longer before you move on to the next photo.

Almost always, in each photo, there is an expression, a ritual, a belief, a human, and an atmosphere that draws you in.

Exhibition: Artists bring to canvas social issues, culture, memories

Despite cultural differences in the countries, Struzik sought to highlight the humanity we all share. “We should go beyond prejudices,” he said.

“Islam is seen as holistic in Europe. I want to show it is much more complex,” he added.

Women of a «women enpowerment comitee» set by the WFP to help the community to consider the voices of the women. These might succeed only if the village elders will take part in the process. Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. PHOTO: François Struzik

“While media tends to simplify things, it is our responsibility to say ‘no, it is not that simple,” he continues.

Struzik does not want to tell people what to think; he just hopes to incite a curiosity with his images. He wants people to ‘think more’ and ‘think again’.

Lila (night of rites) organised by a pilgrim to the shrine. The Lila is dedicated to the «djin’s» (spirits) living in one’s body. The rites are specifically dedicated to one spirit with its own music, color, songs played by the local Hamadcha brotherhood. PHOTO: François Struzik

Struzik, who is also a photojournalist, has worked for various press magazines and international organisations such as Unicef, World Food Program and Terre des hommes. He is currently working on a book featuring his photos from the past ten years.

IDP (Internally Displaced Person ) in a camp near Muzaffarabad, dressed in clothes given by the international aids organisation. 2005 earthaquake has killed more than 85,000 people, most of them children, Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, pakistan. PHOTO: François Struzik

Struzik’s exhibition was running at the Alliance Française from February 8 to 14.

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