“Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” a Once-in-a-Lifetime Book that Brings the 49th Ismaili Imam’s History and Spiritual Leadership to Life

“As he says in his own introduction to the book, Otte engaged in a deep research of the photo archives of the Aga Khan, finding images chosen for their quality but also for the fascinating story they tell. The result is a unique collection of photos, many of which have not been published before, but which, taken together, form a visual biography. It is a book about His Highness the Aga Khan, but it is also a portrait in time and space of the world seen from a different perspective, one of endless change and movement, but also one of hope” — Philip Jodidio, Preface, p. ix, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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DEPTH OF FIELD: THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS, edited by Gary Otte with texts by Bruno Freschi, Philip Jodidio, Don Cayo and Gary Otte
Hardcover 260 pp. Published by Prestel, February 2022; 220 colour illustrations. To purchase the book, please see links provided immediately after the article.

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Reflections

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
Cover jacket of Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

By NIZAR A MOTANI, PhD

I have used the Aga Khan and Hazar Imam interchangeably in my reflections about this visual biography of him, by Gary Otte  

When I finally received the long-awaited book about Hazar Imam, I gleefully looked at the cover, actually the “jacket,” with his picture. It was intriguing that this photograph portraying Hazar Imam had part of his shoulder hidden: it was found in the inside “folding”, which also has an extract from the Preface. The complete photograph appears on page 121. Then, I instinctively and happily thumbed through this delightful “coffee table” edition, as if it was just an album, though about a familiar figure, without much thought and not reading most of the captions. It soon became apparent that the three essays preceding the photographs must have a purpose and should be read before taking a second closer look at them. In my humble opinion, this is what every viewer should do since these textual and contextual commentaries guide the viewer to not only how to view the images, but also, and more importantly, to ponder over them to see beyond these images, which collectively constitute a pictorial biography of the Aga Khan.

The editor of this milestone photographic record, Gary Otte, explains in the Introduction, that as the Aga Khan’s principal photographer for some thirty years, he had ample, varied and exhausting opportunities to capture a lot of “interesting stuff.” He witnessed happenings at “exotic and iconic locations; global leaders and ordinary folks”; — and events of great historical, cultural, religious and economic significance (p. xi).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“In an age dominated by moving images, still photographs continue to carry remarkable power. Nothing captures a moment as memorably. There is no movement to miss, no soundtrack to distract. It is the still photograph that becomes iconic – a fraction of a second with great impact that people can readily call to mind. Few moments in film or video imprint themselves so clearly. It is that single frame from a vivid scene that we carry with us… Like all the photographers who covered the life of the Aga Khan, I benefitted from his acceptance of us as chroniclers of history” — Gary Otte, Introduction, p. xiii, “Depth of Field, The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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The two hundred twenty meticulously selected photographs — ninety by him and 130 taken by some fifty other photographers — take the viewers on a panoramic tour of all aspects of the Aga Khan’s amazing life. They are not chronologically presented but were chosen because they were deemed “technically, compositionally, and editorially excellent” and were “more representative of geography, subject area and decades.” (p. xi).

Otte recommends viewers to inspect and revisit all the photographs because “every long look can reveal something new as you discover or imagine, what is happening.” (p. xi).

Philip Jodidio, a prolific author and an expert on contemporary art and architecture, has written a glowing Preface in which he comprehensively and chronologically portrays the major initiatives of Hazar Imam, who is described as “one of the most fascinating personalities in the world….he is a spiritual leader, the driving force behind numerous humanitarian and cultural organizations” as well as “one of the most important figures who has sought to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West” (p. v).

By reading this essay, themes and patterns will emerge in the two hundred twenty otherwise randomly presented photographs. The renowned Bruno Freschi’s brief but telling Foreword is centered on his deep respect for Otte’s superb photographic skills as well as his profound admiration of Otte’s extraordinary subject’s (The Aga Khan’s) ambitious, multidimensional, multifaceted mission, which has been so diligently and visually portrayed.

The Aga Khan’s mission, or more appropriately, his mandate as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has been succinctly conveyed in excerpts from one of his numerous speeches (p. xvii) and from his historic address to the special joint session of the Canadian Parliament, on February 27, 2014. Thankfully, Jodidio has excerpted the essence of this speech in his Preface (p. v).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“Gary’s photography and his curation have produced a collection with a magical quality. The reader/viewer is transported into the event-image reality. The photography is the doorway into the spirit of the frozen moment. These event-moments are the curtain in the great theatre of life. Once the curtain is raised it reveals the compelling life story of the Aga Khan, an elegant portrait of his historic mission” — Bruno Freschi, Foreword, p. xv, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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In my reflections on just a few of the photographs in this non-chronological historical biography, I hope to be faithful to the sound, revealing guidance on how to embrace each image. Evidently, beyond and behind the photographs, there must be careful and plentiful preparation and coordination, prior to, during, and even after each different event: airport arrivals and departures; protocols; media liaison; motorcade escorts; security arrangements; translators, meetings with heads of state and other leaders; banquets and speeches — to think of just a few. The photograph on page 212 shows Dr. Shafik Sachedina, Head of the Department of Jamati Institutions at the Diwan of the Ismaili Imamat, and Dr. Mohammed Khesavjee, who served as the Information Officer at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat at Aiglemont for many years, playing complementary roles behind and at the scene. Most photographs do not show such senior and other personnel in the Aga Khan’s entourage doing the critical groundwork.

The photograph on page 163 shows Hazar Imam thanking the police escort for his motorcade. He is always mindful of the very many individuals, institutions and organizations involved during his official visits as the state guest of the host governments, and he is known to unfailingly acknowledge his gratitude to all of them. Only some of them can be seen in some of the photographs, but they were there and we have to imagine them, as explained by the editor.

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Jacket, "Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens," 220 photographs, pictorial biography, Barakah, Nizar Motani reflection
Jacket, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” 220 photographs

In 1983 and 2008, the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader paid official visits as the guest of the ruling Sunni family of the emirate of Dubai (pp. 134 and 135). Significantly, the 2008 occasion was the opening ceremony of the new Ismaili Centre. We can only imagine the elaborate preparations and protocols for this historic event. Being invited as a virtual head of state by governments across the world is an unmistakable theme of this fascinating volume. So much planning and coordination by so many unseen volunteers and paid staff within and outside the Ismaili jamat is always the case.

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READERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON “THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS”

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

This fabulous book with its layout, font, selection of photos and essays is extraordinary — Moez Murji 

The photographs chosen are not only beautiful but were also very carefully selected, and each carries a deeper message of the Aga Khan’s incredible — and farsighted — vision. It’s indeed remarkable and an occasion of immense happiness for the Ismailis that the unbelievable results that have been achieved by Mawlana Hazar Imam in so many countries around the world are finally covered in such a well condensed pictorial book — Amin Jaffer

In this 280-page bumper pictorial biography of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which I ordered and have already received it as one of my living room’s table top collections, some of the pictures will bring alive our individual and family memories — Kamruddin Rashid

Beautiful! Now [after reading Nizar Motani’s reflections] I have to go back to the Visual Biography (love that!!) and look at it differently! Different viewers may have different meanings to different pictures. Great job Mr Gary Otte for the book and Nizar Motani for his reflections on the book — Mirza Smile 

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Gary Otte’s very first illustration is a two-page panoramic view of the October 1957 Dar es Salaam Takht Nashini. It requires deep individual contemplation to merely “digest” the thousands in attendance. And much more imagining of the hundreds more involved in numerous aspects of staging this majestic enthronement ceremony, in a British colonial African country, with several non-African immigrant minorities among the heterogeneous African populations, can be a challenging mental exercise!

It is almost on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the August 4th 1972 mass Asian Expulsion by Uganda’s mercurial megalomaniac military dictator, Idi Amin Dada, that I am encountering Hazar Imam’s somber photograph with Amin. It was taken during Hazar Imam’s critical February 1972 visit to Kampala (p. 59). I was still in London completing my doctoral dissertation on the topic of Uganda’s African Civil Service, hoping to teach African History at Makerere. It so happened that I returned on that fateful day — August 4th 1972, not to a much anticipated warmest welcome at the Entebbe Airport, but to most somber news, from my parents, about the expulsion order issued just prior to my arrival!

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

Such an epic volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. Gary Otte has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection…and has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text. Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes — Dr Nizar Motani, author of this post

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Therefore being absent from Uganda during Hazar Imam’s February visit, I can only imagine the challenging task of the local Ismaili entourage and leadership on how to brief Hazar Imam for any meeting with such a vainglorious man controlling the destiny of all Ugandans. Could Amin have given any clear signal about what was brewing in his mind prior to the alleged dream to ethnically cleanse Uganda of its much maligned Asian minorities? Could Hazar Imam have sensed any forebodings in order to prepare for all eventualities — since the expulsion order’s short deadline was met with fairly well-organized and timely evacuation under the most harrowing circumstances? I was one of the lucky ones who chose to and could leave, within a week, for the USA, but remained tormented and concerned about the rest of the family’s fate who had to plan their escape. This image on page 59 may linger for a long while but with deep gratitude that almost all Asians escaped relatively physically unscathed.

I will conclude my brief reflections about this unique official  pictorial biography of the Aga  Khan, our beloved Hazar Imam, by simply stating that such an epic  volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. The editor, Gary Otte, has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection of mostly previously unpublished photographs, from his childhood in Kenya to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in various parts of the world, where he was welcomed by the host countries’ Heads of State as a virtual visiting head of state.

Gary Otte has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text.

Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes. It also makes a wonderful gift to give to  thoughtfully selected non-Ismaili friends and colleagues to increase their awareness of the Aga Khan which Jodidio has stated may be  lacking in the general public. But even we, his murids, will be be astonished and overjoyed to learn so much that we cannot possibly already know about or have seen images of his multifarious undertaking, as well as his personal life.

One final thought, as I take the elderly members of the Jamat into consideration. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life, through the photographs in this book, spans three generations. How exciting and inspiring might it be for the elders, were their children and grandchildren to sit alongside them and leaf through all the beautiful photographs of their beloved Imam, not once but on multiple occasions. Old memories would be revived and new stories, narratives, anecdotes, and perspectives would emerge, individually and collectively, adding to our knowledge of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s glorious life and Imamat. This book MUST occupy a place in all Ismaili homes.

Date posted: June 18, 2022.

A slightly different version of this piece appeared recently on Simerg’s sister website Barakah under the title Reflections on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Pictorial Biography, “Depth of Field – The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens” by Nizar Motani.

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PURCHASING THE AGA KHAN’S BEAUTIFUL PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

The publisher’s recommended retail price for Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens is US $ 60.00; £ 45.00 but retailers and on-line book sellers may sell it for less. To purchase the book in Canada, click Aga Khan Museum Shop, Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca; in the USA, click Amazon.com; in the UK and other European countries, click Amazon.co.uk; and in Spain and Portugal click Amazon.es. Elsewhere, see if there is a local Amazon chapter serving your location or visit Amazon’s global page. Note that the book is also available for members of the Ismaili community at Jamatkhana literature counters around the world or through the local Jamatkhana leadership.

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback, review and reflections on The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nizar Motani, Barakah, Dedicated to the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Nizar Motani

Nizar A. Motani has a doctorate from the University of London (SOAS) in African history, specializing in British colonial rule in East Africa. He has been a college professor at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He was the first Publication Officer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK). He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Motani’s previous pieces on Simerg and its sister website Barakah are: 

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A SHORT Youtube Presentation: Gary Otte on the Making of the Book

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to more than 1500 pieces posted since the website was founded in the spring of 2009. Also visit our two sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please follow Malik @Facebook and @Twitter.

Available for Viewing and Purchase in Calgary: Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Signed Copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” PLUS An Exclusive Collection of Italian Made Scarves Inspired by His Beautiful Photos of Sea Animals

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah 

Hussain Aga Khan
Prince Hussain

For more than 12 years, Simerg has supported the initiatives of Prince Hussain Aga Khan to his satisfaction. When we first received his signed book “Animal Voyage” in 2009, they were snapped up within a few days. Then, we received his signed and unsigned copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” containing sea animal photos that were also sold out. We are pleased to inform you that we now have in stock very limited quantities of signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” for sale in Canada. The signed copy is available at US $125.00 (Note: The current Canadian bank exchange rate will be used for payments in Cdn $).

In addition to Diving Into Wildlife, we have also received for sale an entire collection of Italian made scarves inspired by Prince Hussain’s photography. The beautiful STENNELA produced scarves were conceived by Valérie Maurice and designed by Kirsten Synge, exclusively for the Prince’s organization Focused on Nature (FON). The scarves as well as the signed books may be viewed in Calgary, before making a purchase. As in the past, the entire proceeds from the sales of scarves and books will be submitted to Prince Hussain’s organization FON, which assists in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts.

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PHOTO BOOK: DIVING INTO WILDLIFE

Diving Into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan Simerg Signed copy
Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.

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Hussain Aga Khan with his father and Portuguese President in Lisbon
Prince Hussain presents a photograph to his father, Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan, and Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at The Living Sea photo exhibition in Lisbon in September 2019. Photo: The Ismaili/Jorge Simão.

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STENELLA SCARF COLLECTION INSPIRED BY PRINCE HUSSAIN’S PHOTOGRAPHS

Focused on Nature Scarves
200 cm x 140 cm ( 85% modal, 15% silk) $US 290.00; Italian made and produced by STENELLA brand for Prince Hussain’s organization FON. Other sizes are also available and priced from $US 90.00. Please contact Malik Merchant at mmerchant@simerg.com to view – and purchase – the scarves in person in Calgary.

The author of this piece will gladly arrange to show you, by appointment, the entire collection of the beautiful scarves in person in Calgary. At the same time, you will also be able to make purchase of the scarf of your choice; they range in price from approximately US $ 95.00 to US $ 295.00, depending on material (silk or silk/cotton) and size. Please contact mmerchant@simerg.com for more details about the objects and to arrange a viewing in Calgary. During the viewing at a mutually arranged location, Malik will respectfully observe the social distancing guidelines in place for COVID-19 as well as any other recommendation(s) you and your family members may be observing at the time. Malik looks forward to your interest in these beautiful objects related to Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s incredible voyage of discovery in wildlife and nature since his childhood.

Date posted: April 22, 2022.

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Malik Merchant, publisher and editor of Simerg, Insights from Around the World
Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Simerg (2009) as well as its two sister websites Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). An IT consultant for more than 40 years in the UK, USA and Canada, he now engages in family related projects and is devoted to his websites. His passion for literature and community publications began in his childhood years through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. 2017) and Malek Merchant (d. 2021), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited Ilm magazine with his father. The internet encouraged him to launch his first website, Simerg, in 2009. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he recently relocated to Alberta. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.

National Geographic Photo Story: A Journey Through Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains

In the heart of Central Asia lie the dramatic Pamir Mountains; while the topography of this lofty region poses unique challenges to daily life, new initiatives including those by the Aga Khan Development Network have helped to bring fresh opportunities to some of Tajikistan’s remotest communities. Please click on Pamir Mountains or on photo below to read Christopher Wilton-Steer’s piece in the National Geographic.

National Geographic Photo
Please click on image to read Pamir photo story in the National Geographic.

Date posted: April 21, 2022.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Simerg’s editor may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com

The Heavenly Ismaili Jamatkhana at Night; and Changing Face of Nature at Morningside and Aga Khan Parks

Hopefully, you did not miss photos of the rich autumn colours at Aga Khan Park, when autumn foliage peaked around November 5, 2021. If you missed the post, please click HERE.

Click on photo

About a week later, as trees started losing their leaves, Malik Merchant happened to be at the grounds of Aga Khan Park at night, and captured the beauty of the heavenly Ismaili Jamatkhana dome through lit-up trees, moments before the lights in the prayer hall went out. See the beautiful photos HERE.

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The face of nature changed once again, as more and more trees shed their leaves and lost much of the autumn foliage. For one last time Malik Merchant visited Morningside Park, and also made his customary pilgrimage to the Aga Khan Park. His story and spectacular photos are HERE.

Date posted: November 18, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Please also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.

Autumn Photos: Blazing Red Maples at Aga Khan Park

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor Barakah, Simergand Simergphotos)

What truly instilled in me a love for nature? I had taken it for granted in Africa! But on a New Moon Night (Chandraat or Chaand Raat; Bengali, Urdu etc.) in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the 3rd week of November 1979, I looked up at the sky with the Wasatch Mountain range around me. There I spotted the beautiful crescent on a clear evening!

Chandraat as Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, 48th Hereditary Imam of Ismaili Muslims, said is a night that will generate immense happiness and peace. In anxious moments of arriving in a new city to work as a trainee computer programmer, the sighting of the New Moon is exactly what I needed. I have loved nature ever since that day.

Yesterday, November 5, in Canada and in many other parts of the world, Ismailis marked the Night of the New Moon with special prayers of Salwaat and the prayers of Bibi Fatimah — the beloved daughter of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) and wife of the first Shia Imam Hazrat Ali (A.S.) from whom Ismaili Imams are directly descended. Thousands of Ismailis around the world attended their respective Jamatkhanas while many others prayed at home due to Covid-19 procedures in place. I spent hours during the day time taking photos — I was even more excited and energized, because of the significance of the day.

Please click HERE or on image below to view a small collection from hundreds of nature photographs I took, mostly with my Olympus OM-D EM10, between November 3 and 5, 2021 in Toronto’s forests and parks.

Blazing Aga Khan Park
Please click on image for story Blazing Aga Khan Park and photos from Parks and Forests in Toronto.

Date posted: November 6, 2021.

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Simergphotos Presents Nature Photos Inspired by the Writings of Aga Khan III

Malik Merchant recently set out to capture pertinent pictures that would be reflective of the writings of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, on the glories of nature and the purpose of life. From the joys of watching beautiful moon and sun rises to the struggles that living things have to endure to sustain themselves as well as to multiply, Malik was lucky enough to experience moments he was seeking out for his new piece in Simergphotos.

A painting of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah by N.B. Dewji that appeared in a voluminous journal called Rahe Rast, published in 1948-49 under the supervision of Dar es Salaam’s iconic religious education teacher Karim Master. Please read Rahe Rast article.

The photo post has been prepared to mark the 144th birth anniversary of the longest reigning Imam in Ismaili history, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III. Born on November 2, 1877 in Karachi, he became the 48th Ismaili Imam in August 1885 at the age of 7. He passed away on July 11, 1957 after a reign of 71 years, the longest in Ismaili history, handing the Hereditary Imamat that originated with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Shia Imam, to his grandson Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. Prince Karim is now in his 65th year of Imamat. Please click SIMERPHOTOS or on any of the two images on this page for a beautiful collection of nature photos as well as quotes on nature and the realities of life by Aga Khan III.

Please click on image for NATURE PHOTOS reflecting the wisdom of Aga Khan III.

Date posted: November 1, 2021.

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Flowers, Flowers and More Flowers – with Love – for the Children, Girls, Sisters and Mothers of Afghanistan

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

PLEASE READ THIS FIRST: We wish to remind Jamati members in Afghanistan that they should remain calm, and not give in to panicked reactions. A Jamati advisory was issued on August 20, 2021 to that effect (please read it in English and Farsi). We have learnt from newspaper reports that tens of thousands of Afghan citizens, out of panic, have shown up at the gates of Kabul airport hoping to get a flight out of the country. This panicky rush has resulted in seven deaths. Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is giving constant guidance and direction to the Jamati leadership in addressing the developments that are taking place in the country. A special AFGHANISTAN HELPLINE has also been set up. As per the advisory and announcements being made in Jamatkhanas around the world, we are gratified to learn that “Ismaili and AKDN institutions remain safe, and have not come under any undue pressures, and that in accordance with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, all our institutions continue to operate as normal”.

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Flowers

These daytime and night-time photos of the beautiful Hibiscus flowers were taken at the Aga Khan Park in Toronto in the last week. The post is dedicated to the children, girls, sisters and mothers in Afghanistan, with the hope that they will be given the opportunity to become fully engaged in the country’s development, progress, growth and prosperity in the years ahead.

(Click on photos for enlargement)

Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant. August 22, 2021
Hibiscus. August 22, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus. August 14, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus. Photo: © Malik Merchant Simerg Aga Khan Park
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus. August 22, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Ismaili Jamatkhana Aga Khan Museum Malik Merchant Simerg
Hibiscus. August 15, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hibiscus Aga Khan Park Malik Merchant Simerg
Hibiscus. August 14, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.

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Last Word: The Pigeons and the Hibiscus

Through wisdom, may compassion, love, peace and power be given to the women of Afghanistan

Hibiscus and Pigeons Aga Khan Park, Peace, Power, Compassion, Wisdom Simerg Malik Merchant
Hibiscus and Pigeons. August 22, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Date posted: August 22, 2021.

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Another version of this post appears in Simergphotos.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Stunning Nature Photos from Aga Khan Park: The Majestic Hawk, Honey Bees, Russian Sage and the Beautiful Hibiscus

See Nurin and Malik Merchant’s extraordinary photos of their visit to Aga Khan Park. Nurin notes that with 6 summer weeks remaining, make the most by visiting the Park or other gardens and trails where you live. Then of course, we will all see the arrival of autumn that will offer us spectacular fall colours!

Please click INCREDIBLE ENCOUNTERS AT AGA KHAN PARK or on image below

Broad-winged hawk at Aga Khan Park, August 7, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simergphotos. Please click for photo essay.

Date posted: August 9, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

A Beautiful, Creative and Prayerful Birthday Card from Daughter to Dad

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphoto

The greeting card shown above as a featured image and in the post below is from my daughter Nurin, and it is more than what I would wish for on my birthday on August 5, which coincides with the birthday of Princess Salwa, wife of Prince Rahim (b. October 12), and mother to their beautiful two children Prince Irfan (b. April 11) and Prince Sinan (b. January 2).

Like all children and youth of today, Nurin is multi-talented, and who would think that a veterinarian would have an interest in designing creative birthday cards for friends and family members — but that’s one of her favourite hobbies. She has done tons, and they are gorgeous. She has been an artist from her childhood, and could have easily pursued a degree in the fine and visual arts — during her schooling years she learnt to play the flute, the chelo and the piano, and she was great at tap dancing. She continues to paint and sculpt whenever time permits her.

NUrin Merchant Nature of Prayer
The Nature of Prayer” by Nurin Merchant is a 14″ x 10″ mixed media acrylic painting on canvas. Secured on the canvas with strong glue are a handmade Tasbih (prayer beads), and 3 dried leaves bearing the Arabic inscriptions of Allah, Ali, and Muhammad. The whole piece represents prayer through the invocation of these names. This work was Nurin’s contribution for Colours of Love, an art and culture initiative by the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The painting was published in the print edition of The Ismaili Canada magazine. Photo: © Nurin Merchant

For the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, her mixed media painting “The Nature of Prayer,” shown above, was featured in the print edition of The Ismaili magazine.

I think she was very thoughtful about her decision on the career path she ultimately chose to pursue. She loves animals and has adopted two bunnies, Canela and Luc, from an animal care and rescue facility. Her previous bunnies Wobbles and Pistachio died. Luc who fractured his leg late last week is recovering after a surgery.

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Nurin and Malik Merchant framed onto a creative birthday card designed by Nurin.

The Blue Jays are back in Toronto playing their home games after a long long time and Nurin, as the team’s fan, is wearing the club’s baseball cap. I take photos with an Olympus, so she had that in mind too when creating the card, and her wish for me in the card is: “I pray that Mawla Bapa [Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan] always bless you with good and improved health, happiness, barakat, mushkil assan, and long life. Ameen.”

That certainly made my day, and I feel very very happy. Thank you Nurin, and I await as my friends and family members treat me to lunch and dinner in the coming days and weeks! If anyone is thinking of a little present, no handkerchiefs please! I get a new white set from Nurin every couple of birthdays.

A side view of Nurin’s birthday card which she created for me because of my love of taking photos with my simple Olympus E-M10 camera!

I really look forward to Nurin’s photo essay of her recent trip to Toronto when she visited the Aga Khan Park, Edwards Gardens, the East Don Trail and the Ever Green Brick Works. Here are samples of her photos including one taken at the Aga Khan Park of a bee pollinating on a Russian (Purple) Sage herb plant. These plants are located in front of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome along with the matching coloured lavenders; the honey and bumble bees as well as other insects simply love them. You will see tons of bees buzzing around the plants on a sunny day. The bumble bees favour the lavenders over the sage. She also took a photo of the Jamatkhana dome as we were travelling north on Don Valley Parkway, a feat that is unsafe for me to carry out while I am driving. As Ismailis, we are enormously proud of what Mawlana Hazar Imam has built in Canada.

Aga Khan Park Russian Sage Bee Pollinating
A bee on Russian sage at Aga Khan Park, Toronto. July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Jamatkhana dome from DVP Toronto.
A view of the dome of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana from Toronto’s busy Don Valley Parkway, Northbound. The photo was taken from a moving car by Nurin who was seated on the passenger side. Note the references to the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by the Eglington Avenue Exit sign. The dome when fully lit at night looks spectacular. We hope to bring that photo to our readers in the near future. July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
monarch Butterfly Aga Khan Park
A butterfly on tree at Aga Khan Park. July 2021, Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
Flower, East Don Trail, Toronto, July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant
Flower, East Don Trail, Toronto, July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.

Finally, if you are celebrating your birthday this week, a very happy birthday to you too with best wishes for your health, success and happiness as well as fulfillment of your wishes.

Date posted: August 2, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.