SHAFAQNA – Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation opened an exhibition that gives a glimpse into the lives of Muslims in China as documented by photographer Peter Sanders on Thursday.
The exhibition titled ‘Moments in the Lives of Muslims in China — Through the Lens of Peter Sanders’ is a comprehensive photo essay of 50 large-scale images that reflect the vibrant and diverse lives of Muslims at work, at school, at rest, and at worship in all corners of the country.
The images were captured over a period of 20 years by British photographer Sanders, who is also a Muslim, and the exhibition is his first partnership between Sharjah Museums Department (SMD).
“The exhibition introduces aspects of global Muslim culture little known in our region or even internationally through artistically outstanding and culturally sensitive photographic works. This is a unique chance for the UAE community to appreciate how Muslims of a distinctive culture lead their lives and practise their faith,” said Manal Ataya, Director-General of SMD.
Sanders began his career in the 1960s as one of London’s leading Rock and Roll photographers. After trekking through India and Morocco in the 1970s, he found his true calling — to share images of the people, places and spirit of the Islamic world.
His latest exhibition brought together the first comprehensive photographic essay on the Muslims of China. “During the many years I spent in all corners of the country, I was struck by the depth of the Muslim faith and the level of cultural integration. I’m very excited to be introducing the distinctive, yet largely unseen, lives of Muslims in China to a new audience,” said Sanders.
Islam was introduced into China nearly 1,400 years ago, and gradually became interwoven with the social and spiritual fabric of the vast country. The Islamic presence in China has resulted in striking regional subcultures unique in the Muslim world.
Examples include the Uighurs, a small Turkic minority living in northwestern Xinjiang and south-central Hunan. The Hui people — ethnic Chinese who speak Mandarin and form the majority of China’s Muslims — are most concentrated in the northwest of the country, but can also be found in smaller communities throughout the country.
Over two decades, Peter Sanders criss-crossed the country, mingling with communities and photographing them going about their daily lives, as well as capturing images of the remarkable architecture of Chinese mosques. His work not only portrays the environment in which people live, but also the human aspect of their personalities and emotions.