Sunday, 17 May 2015

Vlad Sokhin | The Nyau Brotherhood

Photo © Vlad Sokhin - All Rights Reserved- Courtesy CNN
CNN occasionally features interesting photo essays and photojournalistic works on its website, and has introduced me to the initiation rituals and practices of the Nyau brotherhood, which is a secret society of the Chewa, an ethnic group of the Bantu peoples from Central and Southern Africa.

The Nyau secret society includes coded language, riddles, metaphor, and satire.

Primarily the Nyau perform their masked dances at funerals, memorial services and initiations, but prior to the dances,  the dancers observe a series of secret rituals which are associated with their a secret brotherhood. Each dancer represents a special character relating to the mask or animal constructions worn. The animals are large constructions that cover the entire body while the masks worn over the face are primarily ancestral spirits. 

Nyau masks are constructed of wood and straw. and are divided into three styles; a feathered net mask, a wooden mask and  a large basketry structure that envelops the entire body of the dancer.

CNN's Behind The Scenes of an African Society includes over a dozen photographs by Vlad Sokhin; who actually had to join the Nyau secret society, by going through the initiation rituals and thus infiltrating it.

Vlad lived in Mozambique from 2010-2011, and although the ritualistic dance in recognized by the UNESCO since 2005, it's a largely hidden and feared activity. To gain access and be allowed to photograph it, he had to befriend one of its members and go through a rough initiation ceremony.

Vlad Sokhin is a documentary photographer, videographer and multimedia producer. He covers social, cultural, environmental, health and human rights issues around the world, including post-conflict and natural disaster zones. He worked on photo, video and radio projects, collaborating with various international media and with the United Nations and international NGOs. Vlad’s work has been exhibited and published internationally, including at Visa Pour L’Image and Head On photo festivals and in the International Herald Tribune, BBC World Service, the Guardian, National Geographic Traveler, GEO, ABC, NPR, The Atlantic, Stern, Le Monde, Paris Match, Esquire, Das Magazin, WIRE Amnesty International, Sydney Morning Herald, Marie Claire, The Global Mail, Russian Reporter and others.

He is fluent in English, Russian and Portuguese and also speaks Spanish and Tok Pisin (Papua New Guinea). He is currently also learning French and Arabic.