US & World

In pictures: ‘This is the Sudan I want to show’


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Ola Alsheikh

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Twelve-year-old Alaa writes in English on the blackboard at her school in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

“People here aren’t used to seeing a woman holding a camera in the streets,” says Sudanese photographer Ola Alsheikh, “but I just decide to get the photo whatever it takes”.

Being mocked, rejected or verbal harassed by strangers are things Ola regularly has to deal with in the capital, Khartoum, but she refuses to let that put her off.

“I want to show real life in Sudan – we’ve been marginalised by the rest of the world for a long time,” she says.

Here is a selection of her favourite shots.

A woman hangs raw beef on a line outsideImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“Sun-dried meat, which we call sharmoot, is a key ingredient for classic Sudanese dishes like mullah tagalia or it can be served with porridge,” says Ola. “This woman is drying the meat at home, which will take between three and seven days.”

A girl wearing pigtails with several multi-coloured stands with her back to the cameraImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“This girl’s hairstyle and the mix of colours grabs my attention,” Ola says. “I’m interested in the global influences the pupils at this international school pick up.”

A fruit seller stands in front of his shop window with crates of fruit visible next and behind himImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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Fruit grocer Soleiman Mohamed Toum sells watermelons, grapefruits and bananas from his shop on Tuti island, where the Blue and White Niles merge.

A boy's foot is seen dribbling a football around a coneImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“The composition and contrasting colours of this boy playing football is what catches my eye,” says Ola.

A man looks in the mirror while a barber shaves his headImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“Street barbers are a recent thing in Khartoum,” Ola says. “Before it was only inside shops but now men can get a haircut in markets, streets, and bus stations.”

A portrait of a woman framed with white flowersImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“Lifestyle blogger Nuha Malik and I have been friends for years – this photo of her is part of an Instagram series on curly hairstyles,” says Ola.

A man stands in front of a mural with paint and a brush in his handsImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“This mural shows humanity in harmony,” painter Sari Awad tells Ola. “Sudan’s unique ethnic diversity is what it makes our community special.”

A bus is seen at the end of a long and empty colonnade painted in various coloursImage copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“This is a rare quiet moment on a Friday in central Khartoum. I like the colours and the sight of the bus at the end of the colonnade,” says Ola.

A woman stands close to a horse, holding it by its reins.Image copyright
Ola Alsheikh

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“Enas Siddig is an endurance rider who has represented Sudan internationally,” says Ola. “I love the strong bond between her and her horse.”

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