Fazal Sheikh

Abdul Aziz holding a photograph of his brother Mula Abdul Hakim, Afghan refugee village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997

In our last post on artist Sheng Qi, we saw how archival photos can be used as a form of memory. Today we are looking at another artist, Fazal Sheikh and his project “The Victor Weeps“. Created in 1996, Sheikh travelled to Pakistan to the birthplace of his grandfather. When he arrived at the Pakistan border to Afghanistan he found hundred of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet conflict within their homeland.

Over the next two years, the artist travelled between camps to speak with the people living there, hear their stories and take their portraits. These photographs of faces, places and families were assembled alongside their stories in a book published in 1998.

Qurban Gul holding a photograph of her son Mula Awaz, Afghan refugee village, Khairabad, North Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997

Some of the most interesting portraits in the book are those where surviving family members hold in their hands small wallet sized photographs of their deceased relatives. These images are often accompanied with text describing the dreams of the survivors, their memories and stories.

Haji Qiamuddin holding a photograph of his brother, Asamuddin, Afghan refugee village, Miran Shah, Northwestern Frontier Province, Pakistan, Fazal Sheikh, 1997.
Haji Qiamuddin:
“My brother, Asamuddin, was killed in the 1988 battle for control of Mazar-Kabul road. As I sleep, he walks in the streets of our home village with his Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, just as he did when he was alive.”