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A war cry or an ugly lady

Sports for peace

The old woman in this photograph is a Hakamat, a woman who in the Arab tribes in Darfur, Sudan, performs songs of war to encourage men going to the front line. Fortunately, it’s a tradition that is gradually disappearing and it’s mostly practiced in cultural events to invoke historical memories. This picture shows the emotional aggressiveness with which the Hakamat tend to interpret their war songs and her facial features display the excitement and pride for the important role in her community. But this is just my reading. There may be others, some as contradictory as I received from Sudanese colleagues lately. Most probably due to cultural, academic and aesthetic taste differences, their reaction is to turn the face when they see this close up of the elder and describe her as an ugly lady with grotesque features. I think I didn’t damage the Hakamat’s dignity when I published her portrait, because I admit I gave all my honesty and respect while photographing her. My links to the western world has created opposite perceptions in other cultures and it should be just an example of diversity in this world.

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