Dec 04, 2019-Mar 01, 2020

Baye Fall: Roots in Spirituality, Fashion and Resistance

Photography by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Baye Fall: Roots in Spirituality, Fashion, and Resistance is a photographic series that visually engages the Baye Fall, an enterprising sub-group of Senegal’s notable Sufi Muslim community, the Mourides. These images encourage viewers to contemplate Sufism in a West African context by exploring the community’s reverence for Baye Fall’s founder and leader, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, and his most celebrated disciple, Ibrahima Fall, the namesake of this suborder.

An integral part of the cultural fabric of Senegalese society, the Baye Fall possess a unique aesthetic that includes ‘locked’ hair, patchwork garments, symphonic chanting and artisanal leather talismans and prayer beads. Gathering after the evening prayer to sing in collectives called dahrias, their voices gently resonate throughout the shadows of the night. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect of their religious practice is the incorporation of physical labor as a form of worship.

Through witnessing the everyday lives of the Baye Fall, and the Senegalese cities in which they dwell, this series shows how indigenous ideology and pre- and post-colonial politics have influenced the contemporary spiritual practice of the Baye Fall, as well as their social, economic and political philosophies.

About the Artist

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Her projects have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, BBC, OkayAfrica, Vogue, PDN, CBS, Quartz Africa, among other publications. She has curated exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Port Authority of NY/NJ, and more. She has given talks on her photography at Yale University, Harvard University, The International Center of Photography, Tate Modern, New York University, Howard University, and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Her work has been exhibited internationally and has been published in the Smithsonian-produced anthology, “BLACK: A Celebration of a Culture,” edited by photography historian and professor Dr. Deborah Willis of New York University. She is currently a member of Kamoinge, a pioneering collective of African American photographers founded in 1963. Barrayn is the co-author of MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora.