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Art

Sea Photography at a Mosque

Close up of an Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. PHOTO
Close up of an Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. PHOTO | COURTESY 

‘Fragile Beauty’ is a name that could be given to virtually every species and ecosystem on the planet.

But ‘Fragile Beauty’ is also the name Prince Hussain Aga Khan has given to his fabulous fine art collection of marine photography that is on public display at Khoja Mosque in Nairobi up until February28.

The exhibition, containing more than 100 colour high resolution photographs all shot by the 44-year-old prince himself, is exceptional for several reasons.

For one, it reveals an underwater wonderland of an apparently infinite array of fish. The Prince (who's the second son of the revered spiritual leader of the Ismaeli community Aga Khan) has snapped everything from ‘lady hook’ tiger sharks, blue-spotted stingrays and scalloped hammerheads to humpback whales, giant clams, pink skunk clown fish and a banded sea snake.

He photo-ed lipstick fish, Atlantic spotted dolphins, harlequin shrimp and yellow-masked angelfish and many more. (The names of the fish are almost as remarkable as the fish themselves).

What’s more, Prince Hussain has photographed fish everywhere from Indonesia, the Philippines and the Maldives to Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Egypt and the Kingdom of Tonga in Polynesia.

He has actually been shooting wildlife that lives on solid ground much longer than creatures at the bottom of the seas.

He has published books of his wildlife photography and was even nominated for Photographer of the Year recently by the National Geographic.

But currently, it seems that when he is not working at his day-job for the Aga Khan Development Network, he pursues his passion for marine photography.

In fact, his photo library is ever-expanding such that the 100+ photographs on display at Khoja Mosque are only a fraction of what the Prince has shot underwater all over the world.

According to his business partner and co-founder of ‘Focused on Nature’, Nazir Sunderji, ‘Fragile Beauty’ has already been shown in several places before it arrived in Nairobi. It has been exhibited in Paris, London and New York as well as in Portugal, Germany and Switzerland where the Prince is based.

In Nairobi, the exhibition was shown briefly once before it came to the mosque. That was at the Blue Economy Conference held late last year. But Nazir says that was a completely different.

“That was a private exhibition that was only open to the delegates attending the conference. This exhibition is open to the public,” he says, noting that every Sunday through the end of February, members of the Ismaeli community are giving guided tours of the exhibition.

It is an important distinction in light of what Nazir says is the main mission of the exhibition.

“We are not so much interested in [what he calls] ‘the Wow factor’,” he says, not disputing the fact that the fish are beautiful, coming as they do in a huge diversity of multi-colours, sizes, shapes and styles of mobility.

“What we are really interested in is raising public awareness and getting people to join us in preserving and conserving the environment,” he says.

He adds that the Prince is especially keen to have children see the exhibition since he would like them to feel committed to conservation.

Hussain acquired his interest in wildlife at an early age from his great uncle Prince Sadhurddin Aga Khan.

who started the Bellerive Foundation in the 1970s to pursue the same aim of preserving and protecting the environment. He also became an avid scuba diver early on as well as a collector of all kinds of amphibian and reptilian pets.

But his captivation with the beauty of nature, especially the underwater world of nature, has got him hooked on marine photography in the past few years.

Prints of Prince Hussain’s photographs are available at the Mosque. Silk scarves that have various fish printed on them will also be available before the show ends.

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