The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon: Prince Hussain’s little exhibition of animal photos is captivating

Story and photos by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

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Prince Hussain Aga Khan, like his sister Prince Zahra and brothers Prince Rahim and Prince Aly Muhammad, is well known for his work with the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamat. Unknown to many, including members of the Ismaili community of which his father His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th Imam, is Prince Hussain’s deep passion and love for animals that started during his childhood.

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Left: A beautiful nudibranch in the Phillipines. Photo taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in May 2017. Right: Split level photograph of a marine iguana, with a mountain background. Photo taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in The Galapagos in May 2016. Panel Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

His early passion for wildlife turned into an interest in wildlife photography during his youth when the visited the Brazilian Amazon in 1996. Since then, Prince Hussain has travelled to over 25 countries to take animal photos. Selections from his vast photographic collection have been produced in his two books Animal Voyage (2004 and 2007, new edition) and Diving Into Wildlife (2015) as well as National Geographic blogs. His photos have also been displayed in exhibitions at renowned institutions in the USA and Europe on a much larger scale than what we see in Lisbon where his 6 photos and profile occupy a small elegant space an exhibition hall that includes descriptive displays on Ethics, information about the Aga Khan Museum and a carry over of the Golden Jubilee exhibition titled Rays of Light.

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A view of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s animal photo exhibition. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Once you enter Prince Hussain’s photo exhibition, it is difficult to part with it quickly. The beautiful photos that he has taken want you to spend more time with the animals, because you feel their nearness. Prince Hussain humbly explains, “There is nothing scientific about my photographs. Nor do I try to make the animals, waters or trees look any special way. But it’s my hope that others will see the beauty I see and become more actively engaged in the struggle to slow the degradation of our environment and decimation of our wildlife.”

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Left: Portrait of a dolphin in Sataya – about 5 hours from the coast of Egypt. Photo was taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in November or December 2014, and appears on the cover page of Prince Hussain’s book Diving into Wildlife. Right: Detail of a large nudibranch at Gato Island, just off Malapascua in the Phillipines. Photo was taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in May 2017.

This exhibition as small as it is, is truly marvellous and when you have seen the last of the set of 7 photos that are accompanied by short informative captions, you want to turn back or return later for a repeat showing. It is hoped that a future exhibition for the community will be much larger in scale, and that his delightful book Diving into Wildlife will also be available for purchase, thus contributing to Prince Hussain’s organization Focused on Nature (FON) which aims to help projects related to species conservation and slow habitat loss.

NOTE: We conducted interviews on the exhibition with visitors and you can watch the short interviews by clicking  on Visitors react to Prince Hussain’s animal photos.

Date posted: July 10, 2018.
Last updated: July 23, 2018 (added link to exhibition interview post).


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This website, Barakah, is a special project by and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.


One comment

  1. Thank you for sharing, have always admired him for his passion for animals and all his research on them. Am a lover of animals too, but the explanation in detail of when Prince Hussain started his love and the books he has written are invaluable.


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