Rare destinations - Miracles in Ethiopia

Following photos have been the subject of an exhibition at the

COUNCIL OF EUROPE, STRASBOURG - FRANCE
27 October - 20 November 2009

The exhibition was entitled

SHEIKH HUSSEIN:
MUSLIM PILGRIMAGE
AND MIRACLES IN ETHIOPIA

and was introduced as follows.

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Sheikh Hussein is one of those uncommon destinations, rare by the difficulty of their access and lack of comfort, exceptional by the wealth and the strength of events, unusual by the surprising encounters.

Sheikh Hussein's hamlet, reached after a day along ballasted roads in the Balé Mountains, is dotted with campfires and kerosene lamps. It hosts, among other sacred places, the shrine of the eponym saint, who has introduced Islam in Ethiopia and in particular to the Oromo ethnics. Since the XIIIth century it gathers, twice a year, pilgrims from the region, sometimes beyond its borders, who come on minibuses or on foot, some after three or four months of walking. Muslims in majority, some Christians as well, but also animists, combining sometimes two faiths in harmony.

Grouping together some 50,000 people during one week, this pilgrimage is a concentration of feelings for our team, only 9 "foreigners", welcomed and accepted according to their specific rites. A sudden chill for me, the atheistic photographer, who is nevertheless curious to discover more about religions and spiritualities. The current world news about Muslims reveal their aim to unite believers around violence and fundamentalisms, encouraged and justified by a deep silence of their co-religionists. On the contrary, in Sheikh Hussein we are impressed by the will and above all the power to unite all around an immense peace of mind and harmony, through which faith and beliefs are respected.

A concentration of feelings also shared by the pilgrims themselves. Intense fervor day and night... Despair, hope, hopes… They come to be cured, to be able to give birth, they come to find love… They come back to thank, to share the miracle, to finally tell the fulfillment of the hopeless hope…
A vague of serenity is released through the crowd which is felt individually as well. It is readable even in the glance of the blind man who asks for a portrait which he will never see.
This is so since the pilgrims have considered the photographer as the witness of their presence in Sheikh Hussein.

 

They have told me why they had come.
I have heard their gaze.
 
Now it is up to you to listen into the depth of their eyes…

Bernard Joseph Kuhn - October 2009

 


 



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