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Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography: Teju Cole and Fazal Sheikh

Teju Cole, artist, curator, novelist, photography critic for New York Times Magazine (2015–2019), and Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing, Harvard University, in conversation with Fazal Sheikh, artist and Artist-in-Residence at the Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University

Teju Cole was born in the United States in 1975. The son of Nigerian parents, he was raised in Lagos. He returned to the US to complete a BA at Kalamazoo College in Michigan followed by studies in art history at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London as well as at Columbia University. Cole’s work examines race, gender, migration, culture, and privilege. Born in New York City in 1965, Fazal Sheikh earned his BA from Princeton University in 1987 and has since worked as a photographer documenting the lives of individuals in displaced and marginalized communities. Upon witnessing an increase in xenophobia and authoritarian politics on a global scale, Sheikh turned to Cole for a collaboration that would reinforce their commitment to a compassionate global community and to the importance of individual courage. Through Cole’s words and Sheikh’s photos in the resulting book, Human Archipelago (Steidl, 2018), we are confronted with fundamental and pressing questions of coexistence. Their work asks us to consider, “Who is my neighbor? Who is kin to me?”

In 2020 Cole and Sheikh created a free, online version of Human Archipelago. Amidst a devastating pandemic and uprisings against racial injustice, its questions are more relevant than ever. In this conversation, recorded on January 19, 2021, Cole and Sheikh discuss their collaborative efforts “to find a new way of speaking to the startling reappearance of some very old problems.”