Monday, 18 March 2013

Alex Potter | Ashura

Photo © Alex Potter-All Rights Reserved
For a complete change of pace, I am featuring Ashura, a powerful photo essay by Alex Potter, a photojournalist from Minneapolis.

Ashura is the commemoration by Shi'a Muslims of the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on October 10, 680. It's observed on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, and marks the climax of the Mourning of Muharram.

It is of particular significance to Shi'a Muslims and Alawites, who consider Hussein (the grandson of Muhamad) to be his rightful successor.

Although self-harm or self mortification is largely prohibited by the religious leaders in Iran, some Shi'a males slash themselves with chains or swords to allow their blood to flow. Also included is a type of traditional flagellation using a sword or a chain with blades. These rituals are performed to show solidarity with Hussein and his family, with the flagellants mourning that they were resent during the battle to save their Imam.

Sunnis do not observe Ashura in that fashion at all. Some fast to follow the example of the prophet Muhammad, whilst others customarily eat a pudding (also known as Ashura) after dinner on the Day of Ashura. The wheat pudding is made with nuts, raisins, and rose water.

Alex Kay Potter is an emerging photojournalist with particular interest in people and nations in transition.  In 2011, Alex completed a Master Class with Ron Haviv, followed several Occupy movements, and later, set out for the Middle East. She ended up in Yemen just before the presidential elections and stayed to document the country’s transition for two months. She's also a 2013 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and was shortlisted for the Lucie Foundation Emerging Photographer Award. She hopes to return to Yemen and continue living and working in the Middle East.