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Sufi Festival in Sudan

An exhibition of photographs
by Frédérique Cifuentes

14 October – 12 December 2004

The exhibition will be divided into 3 sections which represent different aspects of Sufi Festivals in Sudan:

The first section focuses in particular on the way the festival of Holiya - the anniversary of the death of a saint - is celebrated. The festival is an opportunity for the gathering of diverse peoples in one place. Sufi religious festivals (Mûlid) are generally celebrations for the Sheicks and saints. They are a rich testimony to the ethnic diversity present among Sufis, regardless of social and professional class. Executives from the Sudanese professional elite, farmers from the countryside, city merchants, women and children, all unite with the communal rituals and prayers that dictate the pace of the unfolding festival.

They are annual manifestations that draw together the whole community of believers for several days of festivities. The followers conduct a parade (Zaffa) through each of the significant cities and towns. This procession leads onto the 'long night', where men unite to participate in the ecstatic dance (Hadra) and repetition of the name of God (Dhikr), to the rhythm of songs (Qasaids) that are performed throughout the night by the country's finest singers.

The second section is a reportage on a Qur'anic school (Khalwa) in Sudan for boys aged 6 to 18 years. This school located north of Khartoum currently comprises 1250 students. It generally takes 3 to 4 years to acquire a perfect knowledge of the Qur'an as an apprenticeship of written Arabic. The children, who are all boarders, follow a very traditional teaching and lifestyle.

The final section brings together portraits of Sudanese Sufi spiritual masters (Sheicks). They play an essential role in a religious community. They advise, listen to and orientate the followers who consult them. The Sheicks have a spiritual power called 'Madad' or 'Baraka' which followers hope to receive through contact with them.

Talks by Frédérique Cifuentes, Omar Taïb, a Sudanese journalist, and Awad El Zein, a Sudanese photographer based in London will be organised at the private view. Performances from Sudanese drummers and singers will also entertain at the private view.