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Black and white image of a young child with a shaved head, back to the viewer, and head turned around looking over her right shoulder and downward at the viewer

Human Archipelago

by Teju Cole and Fazal Sheikh

“Who is the stranger? Who is kin? What do we owe each other? What, in the inferno, is not infernal?”

Distressed by increasing xenophobia and authoritarian politics around the world, award-winning author Teju Cole and celebrated photographer Fazal Sheikh created their 2018 book Human Archipelago “to find a new way of speaking to the startling reappearance of some very old problems.” Pairing Cole’s intimate words with Sheikh’s direct, luminous photographs, the two ask fundamental and pressing questions of coexistence and urge us to consider, “Who is my neighbor?”

Conversation Between Teju Cole and Fazal Sheikh

On January 19, 2021, Cole and Sheikh sat down to discuss their work. The devastating pandemic and uprisings against racial injustice have made their questions and their commitment to compassionate global community more relevant than ever.

This video is presented as part of the Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography.

Video Adaptation of Human Archipelago

Cole and Sheikh made a video adaptation of Human Archipelago in 2020. They take turns reading Cole’s texts over a display of Sheikh’s photographs.

Header image: Fazal SheikhSimran, homeless shelter, Delhi, India (detail), 2008, inkjet print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy