Sorin Vidis – From dusk till dawn
Lukomir is the most remote and highest altitude (1495 m) village in Bosnia. While being less than 50km from Sarajevo, the way of life here has not changed much in the last 50 years. They remain untouched even by the Yugoslavian war for they are the successors of the Bogumils that found retreat in the high mountains, away from the petty quarrels of men. Today, this small village’s population, comprised only of Muslims, fluctuates dramatically between summer and winter, and every year the population drops.
Ramadan, that means dryness, is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset. This is a month of spiritual cleansing, following guidelines put forth in the Quran. They refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse during the day, in their search for taqwa – a higher state of mystical consciousness.
Life as we know it is only allowed between dusk and dawn. While for the non-Muslim world sunrise marks a beginning, for them it brings the end of frivolous liberties. The time of dusk is usually a slow transition towards the end of the day, but in Ramadan time is the reconnection to the physiological activities of men. Muslims believe that removing themselves during Ramadan from earthly preoccupations will bring them closer to Allah.
The village is drenched in a peaceful and quiet embrace of the evening light. People are either sleeping or they have started to prepare traditional food for iftar. The small mosque is on the far edge of the village overlooking the deep canyon and surrounded by the high mountains of Bjelašnica. There was a strange feeling that there was something in the air, a subtle presence that was seeping into my senses.
Fata and Ibro (83 and 88 years) are dedicated Muslims. During the day they keep their exertions to a minimum since they neither eat nor drink water. Yet there is plenty of work to do around the house and it’s only the two of them. The third prayer – Asr – was already an hour ago.
Fata and Ibro’s family is now scattered. The younger generation left the village for a better life in the cities or the villages below where winter is more bearable and where stores are better stocked with goods. Now their children rarely visit.
Fata has already prepared bread – hljeb – and the traditional pie called burek, but for both she and Ibro there is plenty of waiting to do. The curfew lifts only after 9 p.m. so there are almost three more hours to go. These things always fascinate me for I cannot understand what could drive one into it. I think it’s about education and tradition and finding balance in life but then again maybe there is nothing to understand with the conscious mind – perhaps it is more about simply letting your senses flow.
Dusk has arrived and time is slowly moving towards nightfall. At seven in the evening the quiet and serenity in this place is overwhelming, and yet there is also a special kind of energy. I wouldn’t have imagined that people could act so normal, especially elderly people, after having not eaten or drank anything in 14 hours. It’s also true that here everything seems to be having a rhythm of its own so you get the feeling of watching things in slow motion.
Ibro is having the fifth prayer of the day called Maghrib, around 8 p.m. During Ramadan there is an increased offering of prayer – salat – and recitations from the Quran. Presumably, fasting during Ramadan is more rewarding than usual. Prayers are such a personal and self secluded endeavor that my being inside the room was hardly an interruption.
The moment of prayer a mystical perspective is felt, and I think of the fantastic stories I’ve been told. I am not religious myself but I believe I am open enough spiritually to be able to vibrate at the same level of amplitude as the air around me. The sixth and last prayer of the day named Isha is around 10:30 p.m.
Fata and Ibro have enjoyed Iftar and now the most serene sky is hanging on the mountain peaks.
12:30 a.m. Although it is a hot summer, at 1500m temperatures are quite low during the night. They are now sleeping but soon will have to wake up for an early breakfast. It is only now that I realize breakfast comes from breaking the fasting period of the night.
All these rather inconvenient and prohibitive rules of Ramadan are followed every step of the way by many Muslims around the world. Perhaps for us in the western non-Muslim world, the physical price seems to be high, but I think the spiritual gain, the serenity towards life and death, and the disciplined principles of living, seems to even the balance.
3 a.m. Ibro is up already, waiting for Fata to set the table. They have already taken the first prayer of the day – Fajr. The room they sleep in acts as the kitchen, dormitory and dining room. They could use some extra heating especially during the night. Fasting re-begins at 3:30 but here among the high peaks the sun will rise only at around 5:00. I admit I wasn’t awake at that time.
Suhoor – the first meal of the day is usually made from the remains of iftar. It is actually even more practical for a fast meal between naps.
Ramadan fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the others being belief, prayer, charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.
10:00 a.m. By this time they have taken the second prayer – Sunrise – around 5:00 a.m. Ibro is cutting some wood for the stove fire. It is a beautiful sunny day today.
Fata and Ibro were fasting every Ramadan for as long as they can remember. Fasting is considered mandatory after reaching puberty. Every Ramadan actually is more than once a year on the Gregorian calendar: the Islamic calendar – Hijri – is 11 days shorter. This is why Ramadan shifts backwards every year since it began 622 AD with the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. This was the 7th day of Ramadan and there are 23 more to go.
Through all of this, I could see that although the modern paradigm has trapped many of us in a framework of disregarding systems of faith as inappropriate for educated free citizens of the world, there are religious practitioners who are indeed rewarded with health, happiness, stoicism… and most importantly, with hope.
Sorin Vidis – Lukomir, Bosnia i Hertzegovina, July 2013
Sorin Vidis (b. 1978) is a construction engineer from Bucharest, Romania and he shoots mainly on film. He started messing around with photography since late 2006 and his path has seen a lot of twist and turns along with learning more about photography and life. ”Street photography together with journalism and documentary are means of studying and better understanding both my inner self and the society I live in, through the interface of the camera.” More on cargocollective.com/SorinVidis.