KOCHI: For documentary photographer M K Iqbal from Kochi, exploring the Sufi mysticism associated with the ancient town of Tiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu was a revelation of sorts. When the Ekalokam Trust of Photography (ETP) founder Abul Kalam Azad and a long-time friend of Iqbal’s approached him with a request to document the Sufi tradition, people and their relevance in Tiruvannamalai, as part of their Project 365, he jumped at the opportunity. .
“ It helped me reach out and learn in detail one of the most unexplored school of thoughts associated to Islam. As a Keralite, who went to Tiruvannamalai to study about the Sufi culture there, I could not help but find a number of similarities between the culture in Kerala and the Sufi rituals which can be felt in the ancient temple town of Tiruvannmalai. It was an eye-opener,” he shares and cites the examples of various embellishments and crafts found in Kerala.
For Iqbal, who was brought up in Mattanchery, Sufism has always held a special place in his heart. It was in 2004, that Iqbal exposed the Sufi presence in Mattanchery through one of his exhibitions. “ There is an old man named Moidheen Sheikh, who lives in Kalvatti who I dedicated an entire exhibition to,” says Iqbal.
Take about Sufism and ETP
It is a subject which requires an indepth research. The Sufi saints and the people lived like nomads who travelled across lands which enriched the richness of their songs and music. They never remained confined to a place and their existence could be likened to a pool of water which remains stagnated after days of remaining still. “ Only with movement, can one remain pure. This was one of their major beliefs. At heart, I am just like them, a wanderer,” Iqbal laughs.
Meanwhile, Iqbal who has worked with the likes of noted photographers such as Prasanth Punjad, Dinesh Kanna and french photorapher Theory Cadon and American photographer Waxvo S for the project, is all praise of ETP’s efforts to document the past. The project which will culminate in a book will soon start documenting the tri-Sangam ports Kondungallur, Muziris and Tindis and the entire Cauvery Delta.