Part of the exclusive online showroom developed by All About Photo, this exhibition is on view for the month of May 2023 and includes twenty photographs from the series ‘The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal’
Christy Karpinski , is the curator for this month's show.
After having worked for more then a decade in the advertsing industry as an award-winning art and creative Director, Christian Bobst turned to reportage. He won many photography awards including the 2016 World Press Photo Award.
He explains his project The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal
The photographs in this series are part of a long-term project that began in 2012 and was last updated with new pictures in March 2023. The aim is to provide a broader audience with an insight into an Islamic society that is in many ways very different from those commonly known from the Arab world. The series explores the spiritual practices and rituals of the Sufi brotherhoods and how they shape everyday life in Senegal. It also shows how they maintain peace and stability in the country, as well as their own power and wealth, by promoting a tolerant form of Islam rather than dogmatic rules and oppression.
In Senegal, 95 percent of the population is Muslim and belongs to a Sufi brotherhood, more than any other Muslim population in the world. These brotherhoods, also known as tariqas, are spiritual orders that combine elements of Islam with traditional African beliefs and practices. Their teachings emphasize the importance of non-violence, tolerance, and respect for others.
Although Senegal has a secular form of government, Islam is much more than a religion in the country. It is a way of life that permeates the entire society. The marabouts, or spiritual leaders of the brotherhoods, are highly respected and influential figures in Senegalese society. The Senegalese even practice a strong personality cult around the founders of the Sufi brotherhoods and their descendants. Their names and portraits can be found on countless murals, on the lettering of colorfully painted buses, as posters in shopping malls and textile factories, and on almost all taxis.
There are several major Sufi brotherhoods in Senegal, each with its own unique teachings and practices. The most prominent of these are the Tijaniyya, the Muridiyya, the Qadiriyya and the Layene. These brotherhoods have millions of followers in Senegal and around the world. Many of their followers are involved in various economic activities, such as agriculture and trade, that contribute to the overall economic development of the country.
But where there is light, there must be shadow. Some accuse the brotherhoods of mafia-like structures and shady business dealings. There is also frequent criticism of the contributions that the faithful must pay to the spiritual leaders and the brotherhoods. And last but not least, there are those who say that the brotherhoods are in the pockets of politicians and prevent important reforms that hinder the country's progress.
Nevertheless, it's undeniable that the brotherhoods promote social cohesion and unity among different ethnic and religious groups. Perhaps because of this, Senegal has never experienced a terrorist attack and is considered an anchor of stability in West Africa.