Sergei Stroitelev (RU) "The Strongest Bond" - Helphoto 2022




The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal
In Senegal, 95 percent of Muslims belong to a Sufi Brotherhood, more than in any other Muslim population in the world. For Sufis, peace and tolerance are important values, spirituality and closeness to God are more important than dogmas and strict adherence to religious rules. Senegal has never experienced an attack in this age of international terror in contrast to its neighbouring countries such as Mali or Mauritania. The West African country is regarded as an anchor of stability. This has a lot to do with the trust of the Senegalese people in their religion and their spiritual leaders. When tribal leaders called for the raising of arms against the French, during colonial times, Cheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke (1853 – 1928), the founder of the Sufi Brotherhood of the Mourids, taught his numerous followers that the true Jihad is not war by force of arms, but the fight against inner demons. Even today, most Senegalese are fervent supporters of Bamba’s pacifist teachings. The Senegalese engage in a strong personality cult around the founders of their four largest Sufi-brotherhoods and their descendents. While saints are a taboo in most Islamic countries, the names and portraits of the founding fathers of the Sufi brotherhoods can be found on the lettering of colourfully painted buses, as posters in shopping centres and textile factories, on almost all taxis. Although Senegal has a secular form of government, Islam is much more than a religion in the country. It is a lifestyle that permeates the entire society. The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal photo essay shows how the Sufi Brotherhoods and their religious leaders shape Senegalese society and how they maintain power and wealth, but also peace and stability in the country by relying on a tolerant form of Islam instead of dogmatic rules and oppression.

Christian Bobst (b. 1971, Switzerland) originally studied graphic design. For almost 15 years he worked for major advertising agencies in Switzerland and Germany. In 2010 he started working as a freelance documentary photographer. Since then he has produced numerous photo reports and assignments in Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. His work has been published in magazines, daily newspapers and online media such as GEO, Stern, The Guardian, National Geographic, Die Zeit, NZZ, LensCulture and 6mois. Christian has won numerous international and national photo awards. In 2016, he won the 2nd prize of the World Press Photo Award in the Sport Stories category, in 2020 he was awarded at the POYi, in 2017 at the NPPA as well as with the vfg Swiss Photo Award and the photo prize of the canton of Solothurn and many more. Christian Bobst lives in Zurich and is a member of the photo agency laif in Germany. 

Christian Bobst (CH) "The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal" - Helphoto 2020
Christian Bobst (CH) "The Sufi Brotherhoods of Senegal" - Helphoto 2020