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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Unbroken circle: Henna hands capture women's unity in the Rohingya community

Updated: May 5

2023 © Nur Begum

In the heart of the Rohingya Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, a circle of young girls join hands in a collective practice that transcends mere physical connection. Their shared effort is a mingling of spirits, each contributing to a tapestry of uniqueness. To the discerning eye, the extraordinary can be found in the seemingly mundane.

'This photo embodies the hope of togetherness for our future in Arakan. I took this photo as several women gathered to apply henna on their hands. Despite our differences in age, colour, physique, and location, we appear the same when united, radiating a unique beauty. This highlights the importance of diversity in our community; when we join hands, we resemble an undivided earth.' —expressed Nur Begum.

About the photographer: Nur Begum, affectionately known as Nur Moni, was born in 1998 in Nagkain Daung village, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State, Myanmar. Now living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, her path has been marked by resilience and determination.

Forced to truncate her education at the eighth grade due to the unsafe conditions for adult females in Myanmar and the ongoing conflict, Nur's dreams were challenged early on. As a single mother who married at the tender age of 14, she became a parent to a son, now nine years old, while continuing her education for two years post-marriage.

Inspired by her brother, Nur harbored aspirations of becoming a doctor, but circumstances compelled her to abandon that path. Although unable to fulfil her family's hopes of her becoming a nurse, she did complete six months of nurse training in Bangladesh, a testament to her perseverance.

"While I couldn't become a nurse, seeing my sisters in that role fills me with pride," Nur notes.

Self-portrait. 2023 © Nur Begum

In 2018, she joined IOM’s site management, later transitioning to the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC), where she works to preserve Rohingya culture through various activities. Skilled in embroidery and needlework, Nur also discovered a passion for photography. After attending a three-month masterclass led by Ro Yassin Abdumonab, Sahat Zia Hero and Masum, she honed her skills in mobile and basic DSLR photography.

‘Now, my photographs serve as a voice for my community, highlighting the resilience of refugees and advocating for their rights,’ she explains.


This feature is part of The Rohingya Experience, an exhibition in St Helier, Island of Jersey during July 2024, developed by Rohingyatographer, a collective of Rohingya refugee photographers in partnership with Jersey Overseas Aid.



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