Heart breaking images from Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s “The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty” exhibition at the Ismaili Centre Toronto

Plastic in the Oceans

By AL-QAWI NANAVATI

Originally from Mumbai, India, I have long been an artist and am currently pursuing a graduate program in Printmaking at the University of Iowa through an Iowa Arts Fellowship. My recent visit to Toronto happily coincided with the presentation by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of his exhibition The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty at the Aga Khan Museum. I then spent a considerable amount of time viewing the exhibition in the Ismaili Centre Toronto’s social hall and patio. I left the two events feeling inspired and motivated to do whatever I can to assist Prince Hussain in his goals of educating us and raising our awareness about the disturbing state of the oceans and its sea creatures.

Ismaili artists Al-Qawi Nanavati pictured at Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition at the Ismaili Centre Toronto
Al-Qawi Nanavati, a graduate student pursuing Printmaking at the University of Iowa pictured at Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty, at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 22, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The two images shown below captured my attention the most after hearing Prince Hussain speak about his passions and purpose behind the show. The images are mounted on a large panel in the patio of the Ismaili Centre. Titled Plastic Bag and Plastic Waste, they were taken in two different parts of the world, the Philippines and Sardinia, 3 years apart. I thought a lot about these two photographs long after I left the show. They were extremely poignant and show us a mirror into what we are doing to our planet.

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Plastic bags in ocean, Hussain Aga Khan, simerg
Two photographs captured by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of plastic bags in the ocean (top the Philippines, bottom Sardinia) that alarmed Al-Qawi Nanavati when she visited his exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 22, 2023. Photograph: Al-Qawi Nanavati/Simerg.

Prince Hussain has caption notes accompanying the two photographs. For the first photo, taken in May 2017 in the Philippines, the Prince writes: “This was the most depressing thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

For the bottom photo, taken in August 2020 in Sardinia, Prince Hussain laments: “Unfortunately few, if any, effective solutions exist to rid our oceans of this ongoing problem. Most would be difficult to bring to scale. As long as mankind isn’t ready to give up plastic or capable of producing reliable alternatives, our marine environment (and others!) will suffer.”

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The image of a snared dolphin that sunk my heart

By DR. NURIN MERCHANT

The photograph by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of two dolphins swimming side by side had the greatest impact on me when I visited his exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

My eyes were immediately drawn to one of the dolphin’s tails, which had a black rope (presumably from fishing equipment) tightly ensnared around it. The rope had been cinched so tight over time that it was now embedded in the dolphin’s skin. My heart sank — such an intelligent yet helpless creature experiencing so much pain and suffering due to mankind’s irresponsibility with its creation.

I would like for the readers to think about something we can all relate to for a moment — pretend that one day you are walking barefoot on a beach, somewhat far from home. Suddenly, OUCH! You feel a sharp pain, and notice that you have accidentally stepped on a piece of glass that has become deeply embedded in the sole of your foot. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, you cannot remove the glass. No one is around to help you, so you are forced to walk all the way home; each step is a painful burden as the glass digs in, deeper and deeper. A few hours later you reach home, fetch a pair of tweezers, and thankfully succeed in removing the shard.

Habituated bottlenose dolphins taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan at a site known as Dolphin Reef near Hurghada, Egypt, November 2020. Note the rope attached and digging deep into the second dolphin's tail
Habituated bottlenose dolphins taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan at a site known as Dolphin Reef near Hurghada, Egypt, November 2020. Note the rope attached and digging deep into the second dolphin’s tail — impossible for a simple diver to remove. Photograph: Nurin Merchant/Simerg

This dolphin has no one to help it. In the scenario you just imagined, just like we use our feet to propel us forward, the dolphin uses its tail. Unlike the scenario though, this dolphin has likely been living with this injury for months, not hours. And one day, it is very probable that he or she will die from this injury.

This photograph highlights the damage that we continue to inflict upon nature and juxtaposes it with nature’s strong will and resiliency. I see it every day in my career as a veterinarian — animals are far more resilient and perseverant than humans, but this is because they have no choice but to survive, but to persevere.

We must be their voice. And we must always remember: nature’s resiliency cannot compete with our destruction. One day, just as this dolphin — an animal recognized by many scientists as a non-human person due to their high level of intelligence and ability to be self-aware — will succumb to its injuries, so will our ecosystems and the species who call it home (ourselves included).

Each and every one of us has a duty to protect, preserve, and conserve Nature and our home, Planet Earth. Without it, there is no us.

Date posted: May 28, 2023.
Last updated: June 01, 2023 (reformatting.)

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Children, youth and professionals share their voices on Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s photo exhibition “The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty”

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

Both the Glenbow at the Edison in Calgary and the Ismaili Centre Toronto venues of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty have provided me with ample opportunities to meet people of all ages to hear what they think about the exhibition in general and which specific photographs, if they had to pick only one, impressed them the most. I am delighted to present a selection of video and audio recordings of the beautiful voices I have heard in the last few days.

VIDEO

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AUDIOS

(1) ZOHEB NAZERALI, Ismaili Centre Toronto

Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea
Sophia Suleman — listen to her audio below — picked “Pilot whales swimming through the light” as her favourite image in Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty that is on display at the Ismaili Centre Toronto until June 4, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

(2) SOPHIA SULEMAN, Ismaili Centre Toronto

(3) ADRIENNE, Ismaili Centre Toronto

More audios below

Visitors at Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition The Living Sea -- Fragile Unity at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023.
Visitors at Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg

(4) ADEN WALJI SAYED, Ismaili Centre Toronto

(5) ADYAN MOMAN, Ismaili Centre Toronto

More audios below

Visitors at Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition The Living Sea -- Fragile Unity at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg
Visitors at Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg

(6) SALMA and TAJ JADAVJI, Glenbow at The Edison (Calgary)

Adam Walji Sayed -- listen to his audio below -- picked "Marine Iguanas" as his favourite image in Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition The Living Sea - Fragile Beauty that is on display at the Ismaili Centre Toronto until June 4, 2023.
Adam Walji Sayed — listen to his audio below — picked “Marine Iguanas” as his favourite image in Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty that is on display at the Ismaili Centre Toronto until June 4, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

(7) ADAM WALJI SAYED, Ismaili Centre Toronto

(8) IRIAN, Ismaili Centre Toronto

(9) KHALIL NAZARALI

Young Ismaili volunteers and friends  at Prince Hussain Aga Khan's exhibition The Living Sea -- Fragile Unity at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg
Young Ismaili volunteers and friends at Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto; May 26, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Date posted: May 27, 2023.
Last updated: May 29, 2023 (typos and restore missing audios.)

Please visit our sister website Barakah for our exclusive reports and photographs of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s presentations in Calgary and Toronto.

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Visitors are filled with surprise, wonder and amazement as Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Living Sea photographic exhibition opens at The Glenbow at Edison; free admission!

“I am amazed at this entire exhibit because of how intimate the photos are in telling the story of each animal and their interaction with other animals under the sea…. Prince Hussain captures moments with these animals that show that they have this almost human characteristic – this love, this energy that really helps people relate to them and really feel for them” — visitors to The Living Sea, May 11, 2023, opening day, speaking to Simerg

Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea in Calgary
Timeline of Prince Hussain Aga Khan, The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty, Glenbow at the Edison, Calgary, May 11-21, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

By MALIK MERCHANT

For several days, I have been excitedly looking forward to the Canadian debut in Calgary of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s photographic exhibition entitled The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty. I wanted to capture the moment at 11 AM on Thursday May 11, when the first batch of visitors entered the exhibition hall at The Glenbow at Edison located in the heart of Calgary’s downtown. Alas, some important maintenance work was underway in my apartment that delayed my arrival until almost 1 PM. All visitors were warmly greeted by volunteers as they walked through the front doors and reached the 2nd floor of the Edison. The staff manning the registration desk were courteous and processed the visitors speedily. Prince Hussain’s latest book of sea animal pictures “The Living Sea,” was also available for purchase at the desk and I eagerly acquired my personal copy before they sell out. The price is CDN $80.00 + 5% GST. I was informed that, as of the opening time, almost 7,000 visitors had registered to attend the exhibition, which runs until May 21. With permission to conduct small interviews, I began my tour of the beautiful exhibition hall by first studying an informative timeline as well as profile of Prince Hussain.

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Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea Calgary
A view of Hussain Aga Khan’s The Living Sea – Fragile Unity, Glenbow at the Edison, Calgary, May 11-21, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea Calgary
A view of Hussain Aga Khan’s The Living Sea – Fragile Unity, Glenbow at the Edison, Calgary, May 11-21, 2023. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Then, in front of my eyes, along the entire length of the hall, was a collection of amazing and beautiful photographs of sea animals that Prince Hussain has captured over the last several years starting from his youthful days. Visitors viewed and admired photographs from different angles with fascination and interest, noting some fine details of the photographs. Many felt they were deep in the ocean with the sea creatures they were seeing in front of them. Children showed a great deal of interest and asked their parents insightful questions about the sea creatures. They had come to see the photographs as well as to learn.

I wasted no time in approaching a few visitors for their overall feedback about the exhibition and the photographs that they liked the most. Everyone I approached happily gave me a few moments of their time. My interviews were short and precise and I am pleased to include a couple of audio recordings as well as transcripts from all recordings that I carried out (the transcripts are edited for clarity).

The exhibition is free to attend and you can register for tickets by clicking on The Living Sea: Glenbow at the Edison. Public parking is available at parking areas located about 5-10 minutes from the Edison building. I would urge you to reserve your free tickets without delay — and take your children and grandparents with you. They will thank you for showing them the wonders of the ocean.

Visitors share their favourite photographs with Simerg

Exhibition volunteer: I have two favourite photos: One is the side-profile of the Hammerhead’s face. Classically, when certain animals are photographed, you only see them in a certain way but he [Prince Hussain] has captured this animal from a totally different angle that I have never seen before. It just brings to light different features and just makes you appreciate this amazing creature in a different way; and I just think that’s consistent across his photos in terms of how he captures them in a very unique way.

Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea Calgary, Simerg

The second favourite I have is Mum’s Hug which is a sea lion with its baby and they are swimming together and Prince Hussain captures moments with these animals that shows that they have this almost human characteristic –- this love, this energy that really helps people relate to them and really feel for them and understand why the Prince does what he does, and why he cares the way he does. He almost photographs them as if they are members of his own family…. It’s really a neat feeling that you have when you look at these, and I think of my own children and I think of these animals with their own calves, and its just unbelievable.

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Mamnuna (last name inaudible): I am here at the exhibition The Living Sea by Prince Hussain Aga Khan. As soon as I entered the exhibition, I could feel the energy in the atmosphere. There is so much photography that you are oozing yourself in, and that’s an amazing feeling. I recommend that everyone comes to the exhibition and experiences this amazing feeling that I got today. My favourite photograph was the Clownfish. I just love how Prince Hussain captured it. His emphasis is on the fish and the photograph is very clear. By looking at the fish, you feel the fish is looking at you. It is amazing!

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David Silverberg (audio)

David Silverberg (transcript, edited): I am amazed at this entire exhibit because of how intimate the photos are in telling the story of each animal and their interaction with other animals under the sea. I am especially fond of the Hammerhead Shark that you first see when you first walk into the exhibit, because I have never seen such a close-up photo of this very unique shark that isn’t really in movies and in pop-culture as much as the Great White Shark and other kind of sharks. Its detail of the open mouth and the eyes that look very creepy and predatory is something I won’t soon forget.

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Donna and Michelle (audio)

Donna (transcript, edited, last name inaudible): I came to see this [exhibition] and I did not know what I was coming to see but I am so glad that I did. I did not know we have such beautiful creatures living in the ocean. And I would never be able to see them if somebody had not taken the time to do this. These pictures are absolutely incredible and some of them are funny and this man has a sense of humour, and its just too bad he isn’t here to give us a speech because I would love to be able to tell him, “Thank you very much for giving me such a pleasant day.”

Michelle Burns (accompanying Donna, transcript, edited): I think this thing is absolutely amazing! He has got details on every single picture. I think my favourite is of the big huge one of the sea lion, and I am also going to say this turtle — the big turtle. I like some things he has got on there, the things that are happening — such as the percentages of animals that are left of some species compared to what the situation was 20 years ago. As she (Donna) said, the sense of humour that the Prince has is just amazing. It’s the best thing I have ever seen in a long time. I loved it!

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Hussain Aga Khan The Living Sea Calgary
The registration and welcoming desk at Glenbow at the Edison for Hussain Aga Khan’s The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty, Calgary, May 11-21, 2023. Copies of the beautiful hardback edition of The Living Sea — CAD $80.00 + tax — are seen at right. Photograph: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Casey Anwar: We came to the exhibition because I like sea creatures and I saw a portfolio on the website. My favourite picture is probably the pregnant Tiger Shark because I have never ever seen a pregnant Tiger Shark swim around and I love sharks.

Name inaudible (accompanying Casey): I came for the same reasons. The exhibition is very serene and majestic. And my favourite image is definitely the two Humpback Whales, child and mother, ascending from the deep with the rays of sunshine coming up.

Date posted: May 12, 2023.

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Please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents as well as visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos. The editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Calgarians and Albertans: Experience the Majestic Oceans and its Sea Animals at Glenbow at the Edison – Free Visit from May 11-21, 2023

By MALIK MERCHANT

Albertans can count themselves lucky for being blessed with incredible nature and the scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains. For example, the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Along the entire route, there are mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests and hiking trails and wildlife. The natural spaces in the province are utilized by its residents as well as visitors from around the world throughout the year. During the past 4 months, I was amazed to meet visitors from as far as Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Japan, the Netherlands and Brazil, among many other countries, enjoying our winter activities.

A stingray. Photograph: Hussain Aga Khan/Focused on Nature, Living Sea Exhibition, Glenbow Museum Calgary
A stingray. Photograph: Hussain Aga Khan/Focused on Nature.

As lovers of nature, and to experience nature of a different kind, Albertans travel to the oceans to swim and snorkel in warm waters as well as for relaxation. The oceans are filled with over one million species of living creatures — from the tiniest Zooplankton, to the nudibranch to the blue-ringed octopus, to the dolphin, to the shark and the whale. But how many of us, while playing and enjoying the ocean, will dive into its depths to experience the marvels of the underwater world?

Well, we have a wonderful opportunity here in Calgary as the Glenbow presents a captivating exhibition of sea animal photographs captured by Prince Hussain Aga Khan, whose love for wildlife began when he was only 5 years old. This early childhood interest has grown into a passion for diving into the oceans and mingling with sea creatures of all kinds. Over the last decade he has taken thousands of pictures and a selection of his photographs have been published in books such as Diving Into Wildlife and the most recent one The Living Sea which is also the theme of the Glenbow exhibition. Hussain’s photographs have also appeared on National Geographic blogs.

Aside from taking photographs, Prince Hussain has become an activist on the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas. Through his organization Focused on Nature (FON), the Prince shares his passion and personal mission of conservation and the urgent need for more research and actionable initiatives on global issues negatively impacting the environment.

Glenbow’s exhibition from May 11-21, 2023, will feature a collection of his stunning photographs in large scale format. The exhibition is free and an opportunity that none of us should miss. It will be inspirational for everyone, and perhaps a turning point in many peoples lives when they see how the ocean is in danger of losing many of its species. It might even spur the youth to consider careers in oceanography. In any case, children as well as adults will be awed by Prince Hussain’s stunning underwater photographs.

Once again, this incredibly curated exhibition, The Living Sea – Fragile Beauty, is being held at the Glenbow at the Edison from May 11-21, 2023. It is FREE to attend. Please click Glenbow: The Living Sea to register.

Date posted: May 5, 2023.

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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

From a young age, Prince Hussain Aga Khan developed a keen interest in conservation, tropical fish, reptiles and amphibians – and began scuba diving at 14. He started travelling to the tropics frequently after high school and began taking photographs of fauna and flora on a trip to the Brazilian Amazon in 1996.

Multiple photographic expeditions, often organized jointly with scientists or professional photographers, have led him to constitute extraordinary archives, covering various geographic areas and types of habitats. He has also captured many marine and terrestrial species.

His international exhibitions aim to inspire admiration for wildlife and the desire to protect it. Collections of Prince Hussain’s photographs have also been published in four books: Animal Voyage (2004), Diving into Wildlife (2015), Fragile Beauty (2022) and The Living Sea (2022). Proceeds from the sale of his books are donated, via Focused on Nature, to shark, cetacean or sea turtle conservation.

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Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures: A “Thank You” Letter to the Makers of the Blue Qur’an by Andrew Kosorok, Utah

TO READ COMPLETE LETTER, PLEASE CLICK: A “Thank You” Letter to the Makers of the Blue Qur’an

Please click for thank you letter. Image: Simerg.com.

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