By Violet Ikong
These days, when 32 year old Noory Taha is not at his food stall making and selling falafel, he is out on the streets and markets of his hometown of Karima, in Sudan’s Northern State, looking for images to capture with his cameras. Until late April, that’s what he was doing in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city, which is 273 miles by road from Karima. He’d lived in Khartoum since 2016, photographing and documenting the daily activities of people on the streets.
But then fighting between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out on April 15 in Khartoum and the Darfur region. At first Taha believed the conflict “…was just another bad day for the guys in power and that it [the fighting] would end soon.” Like so many others, he went into hiding in the capital, reasoning that the fighting would pass – after all, over the years Sudan had been the epicenter of several wars and many conflicts.
However, by the time the conflict had continued for more than a week, Taha realized the fighting was not going to stop anytime soon, so he and his wife fled to Karima with their 10-month-old daughter, Shama. Among the few personal belongings he carried were his cameras. Two months passed without Taha taking a single photo. He was consumed by the need to find a job to support his family, and he was dispirited.
While combing the streets for a job he saw many people like himself, who had been affected by the conflict, but still out buying and selling with hopeful smiles on their faces, not giving up in the face of the difficulties posed by the conflict. Inspired by what he saw, he picked up his cameras again.
He wanted to capture the daily activities of people at local markets and on the streets of Karima. “I started photographing the places where I grind my coffee, where I drink my tea, and the local market where I now work. I realized that every little detail here [in Karima] is beautiful if you look from the right angle,” Taha said. Some of Taha’s photos showcase nightlife in the town, and blacksmiths at work, along with street food and vendors, and buyers and sellers at the market.
He shares some of his photos on social media, using hashtags such as #Chronicles_from_untold_markets, #Perspectiveshift, #Warlife, #Streetlife, #ProudlySudanese, #Streetphotography, and #Sudan, aiming to inspire hope in the minds of people affected by the ongoing conflict. He also saves other photos to serve as reminders to himself of life during these deadly times in Sudan. Taha wants the world to see that amid the fighting and chaos, Sudanese citizens are staying strong and are not giving up their hopes of creating a peaceful country.
Taha’s love for street photography is inspired by the works of street photographers in the U.S., like New York’s Billy Dinh and New Jersey’s Monaris. “I am inspired by how they are able to capture beauty in the midst of unloveliness,” the 32-year-old photographer said. “For example, Billy’s photos of New York City always have mud, fog, dirt, darkness, and real people on the streets. But these elements always look so good, they do not annoy or disturb, for some reason, they bring comfort.”.
He likens the dark elements in Billy’s photographs to the ravages of instability in Sudan that at first prevented him from going into the streets to do social documentary photography. “We have been living in instability like many other African countries, and it bothered me at first, that I would have to wait for everything to be perfect in my country to be able to take beautiful photographs. But from observing my surroundings, I learned that even with its challenges, Sudan is already beautiful and rich the way it is, with unique visuals that can’t be found elsewhere,” he said.
Taha believes photographs and videos have been used as war weapons in Sudan to distort truth, push agendas, and brainwash people, and he wants to change that:“I hate when this beautiful art [photography] is used to destroy truth and manipulate events when, in fact, it can be used to show that love and diversity can co-exist.”
According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 4,000 people have been killed and four million people have been displaced since violence broke out in April. Sudan’s conflict has now been going on for almost five months, with few signs of abating.