Born Safita, Syria, 1962. Lives Aleppo, Syria
From the series 'Sufis: The day of al-Ziyara'
Gelatin silver print
Museum no. E.71-2011
Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the V&A and the British Museum
Issa Touma is a prominent figure in the Syrian art scene. Self-taught, he began his career as a photographer in the early 1990s. In 1996 he founded Le Pont Organisation and Gallery, an independent art organisation to promote freedom of expression and stimulate the local art scene through international events.
His series on the day of al-Ziyara documents an annual procession of Sufi pilgrims in northern Syria. Sufism is a mystical path within Islam. Touma photographed the event over the course of ten years, gradually gaining the trust of his subjects. The resulting images convey his sense of immersion in the festival and capture the fervour of the worshippers.