Sudan is home to the Nubian people and the Kingdom of Kush. It’s a deeply magical place documented as an ancient central meeting point for the world’s longest living race recorded – Africans.
Fatima Sanussi (known to friends and family as Nunu) recently returned to the capital, Khartoum with a desire to make a difference. Her family left Africa due to her father, who worked in politics, having to seek asylum in New Zealand. For her, this year long trip is about returning to her motherland, or ‘THE motherland’ as many Africans who’ve had to leave call it. Over the Christmas/ New Year period her Instagram feed expressed how the trip was about replenishing her soul.
Nunu is telling her people’s story through photography; using her camera to capture words and emotion in a place where raw desire and cries for fairness and justice can only be expressed internally much of the time.
Below we talk about how her current project, a digital piece consisting of photography and theory called ‘ the triangle of death’; targets “factors which contribute to the problems Sudan is facing and has a photo component I named Do You Still Dream”. Nunu also invests time and energy toward NGO offices in Sudan and the UN and supports an organization raising awareness of child cancer in Khartoum.
Instead of saying ‘I am just one person, what difference can I make to a country nowhere near recovered from centuries of war, religious tension, famine and political unrest?’ Nunu has packed up her late night Big Mac drive-thrus as well as other first-world conveniences in New Zealand to go back to Khartoum and say, “I am one woman, but I will do what I can”.
Where were you born?
I was born in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
How did you come to be in New Zealand and when did you arrive?
I came into New Zealand in 1999 due to my father’s political background in Sudan and Ethiopia. My father worked for a Sudanese political party. However due to a political movement he started he was forced to flee to Sudan he then worked in Ethiopia for the UN and continued his movement which was unsuccessful and only caused more controversy so he was again forced to leave Ethiopia. So he took my brother mother and I to New Zealand as a political asylum.
Which part of Sudan are you in and what took you back there this year?
At the moment I’m in Omdurman but I’ve been moving between Omdurman and Khartoum. I came out here for a bit of soul searching to connect with the motherland. Also to complete a piece I’ve been writing for a while. It’s called the triangle of death which targets factors which contribute to the problems Sudan is facing. With it consists a digital side which I named “Do you still dream”. The project consists of photos of people I have photographed in Sudan. I’ve always dreamed about going back home and making a difference I guess this is me pursuing my dreams.
What are your plans and hopes to do while you’re there?
My hopes are to finish this piece I’m writing within the year I am here. Also to finish my digital project and get as much photos as I can, and speak with a lot of different people all over Sudan and get enough content. So far I got asked to photograph for a private NGO (non-governmental organization) called AWN Initiative To Support Childrens Cancer . This organization is fighting for the rights of kids battling cancer. So I’ll be photographing to help their movement on the digital side of things also I’ll be working along side them in the children homes. I’ve also recently been asked to be part of the UN Worlds Food Programme in Khartoum so I will be doing some work with them in abou 2 weeks. I’m also trying to get involved in more NGOs that focus on different causes and do as much work as I can.
Your photos caught my eye because your capturing people going about everyday life… And the landscape is so stunning…have you always been in photography… Or what’s inspiring you to take all the photos/moments you are?
I’ve always been into photography , when I see something that I think is beautiful I have to take a picture of it. I guess what inspires me is people. I’ve always been a peoples person. I want to use my photography to inspire the world I guess that’s the ultimate goal. I want people to feel a type of way when they see my photos. I hope to make a difference with my photography. In Sudan you’re unable to speak freely people are afraid of the government and the corruption is the main reason for its problems. So since voices are being suppressed I want to use photography to express people. I want to show the world what the people of Sudan are going through but most importantly I want to do this for people and create a new scheme of expression. That’s why I decided to call my digital project “DO YOU STILL DREAM” because I want people to still be hopeful, in a better Sudan.
Can you describe how the experience of being there the past month has impacted you as a young woman coming from New Zealand so far?
It’s been overwhelming. Sudan has its pros and cons. Personally I come from a family that live very well in Sudan so coming back was simple and settling down. I guess what really got me breaking down was the amount of poverty you see on the streets. The poverty numbers are so high it’s something that you can’t avoid it’s everywhere. You see kids with so much potential that can’t receive an education cause their families simply can’t afford it. I have family members that are doctors which informed me of scenario where people can’t afford to treat their illnesses. Unlike New Zealand theres no governmental support for things like this. So I’ve broke down a few times cause I feel like it’s so unfair and some of these things are hard to witness . As an individual there’s only so much I can do but I still believe that some justice is better then no justice. I’m only one person and I’ll fight to make a difference. The pro side of things – people here are so beautiful. You can feel that there is so much soul in the atmosphere. You see children playing with sticks and tires and are so happy. The people here are so generous. It’s a welcoming atmosphere. So I would have to say so far my experience has been saddening but an eye opener. I guess it’s taught me a valuable lesson that sometimes coming from a first world country we tend to be selfish and seek happiness in the wrong places in the wrong things. We seek felicity the everlasting desire to fulfill our every needs which usually consists of materialism. It taught me that, that’s not pure happiness. Pure happiness comes from within. From appreciating life for what it is, knowing you don’t have it all but still choosing to be happy. I guess now that I’m here I know to count my blessings.
Are you able to pick 10 of your fave pics and describe what was happening when you decided to take the picture?
This photo I took of my little cousin on top of the house. She became so happy as soon as I offered to take her on the top with me. She’s so gorgeous so I had to take a photo of her.
This photo I took at a Military Graduation. There was so many people I’m not too sure of numbers but it was crowded like crazy. Sudanese people have so much pride and you can feel it in the atmosphere. People were cheering on the graduates singing for them even people amongst the crowd were tearing up. I guess it’s the fact that these young men now have officially devoted their life to serving their country and that’s what makes them proud.
This photo I also captured at the military graduation of my gorgeous niece as we were sitting amongst the crowd.
Was driving past these women walking in Omdurman. They are wearing traditional Sudanese clothes. I just thought they looked beautiful so I decided to take this photo.
This photo I captured at the first charity fundraiser I photographed for AWN Initiative for Children’s Cancer. I had a moment with this gorgeous girl. She told me she always wanted to photograph people and things but never got the chance to get her hands on a camera. So I let her take a few shots and taught her how to use the camera, she was so happy.
This photo I took on a bridge on our way to Khartoum from Omdurman. Its called the street of the Nile cause the Nile runs under it. As we were driving past it I saw this beautiful building and I made them stop in the middle of the bridge so I can take a photo. I’m not too sure what it’s for but I just thought it was absolutely gorgeous.
This is a mosque in Omdurman. Islam is the most dominant religion in Sudan so you will find so many all over Sudan.
This is my little cousin. We were on top of the house. Before I captured this photo I noticed that she and her sister were getting these sticks from a tree and throwing round things from the middle of it. I’m not to sure what they were but I guess what inspired me to take this photo at the time was how happy it made them feel. Shows you can find happiness all around you in everything and anywhere.
This photo I took at a “souq” which is Arabic for market. I guess what inspired me at the time was how these two boys were holding tools they’ve purchased from the market. They’re really young as you can see. Here in Sudan due to the poverty situation not all families can afford an education for their children. Especially for boys it’s normal to be working as young as the age of 10. They are very hard workers as well.
This photo I also captured driving passed the souq. I’m not to sure what they are selling but these two are one of the many people that go to the souq to make a profit.