One night, in the tavern, Wang-Fô shared Ling’s table. The old man had been drinking in order to better paint a drunkard, and he cocked his head to one side as if trying to measure the distance between his hand and his bowl. The rice wine undid the tongue of the taciturn craftsman, and that night Wang spoke as if silence were a wall and words the colors with which to cover it. Thanks to him, Ling got to know the beauty of the drunkards’ faces blurred by the vapors of hot drink, the brown splendor of the roasts unevenly brushed by tongues of fire, and the exquisite blush of wine stains strewn on the tablecloths like withered petals. A gust of wind broke the window: the downpour entered the room. Wang-Fô leaned out to make Ling admire the livid zebra stripes of lightning, and Ling, spellbound, stopped being afraid of storms. Marguerite Yourcenar, “Comment Wang-Fô fut sauvé”
Monika Bulaj is an award-winning photojournalist, reporter, documentary film-maker, and educator, based in Italy. Her personal work on minorities at risk, nomads, faiths and shared sacredness in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Africa, and Caribbean, has been recognized by The Aftermath Project Grant, Leonian Award & W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, TED Fellowship, Bruce Chatwin Special Award, Grant in Visual Arts from the European Association for Jewish Culture, and other awards and nominations. She has studied Polish Philology at the University of Warsaw, and also anthropology, philosophy, theology. She speaks eight languages
Bulaj’s work has appeared in The Guardian, Granta Magazine, National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME, Courier International, RevueXXI, La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, Al Jazeera, and GEO, among others. She has published 10 books, the latest being Nur. Afghan Diaries with National Geographic (in Polish) and Where Gods Whisper, with Contrasto (in English and Italian). She has displayed her work in more than 90 personal exhibitions around the world.
Bulaj was the first women to receive the Italian National NonViolence Award “for her work as a photographer, reporter, and documentary-maker which sheds lights on humanity living in the most hidden yet most evident boundaries on earth, for showing war through its consequences, for investigating mankind’s soul, our eagerness for religiosity, tenderness, and dignity. Bulaj makes the invisible visible by exploring people’s soul, by uniting humanity in an image.”
She is a teacher of Photography and Stories/ The creative and nonfiction writing of the real, and performs in a “performing reportage” at the theatre (as screening storyteller) “Nur, Afghan Notes”, “Where Gods Cross Borders”, with video, photography, audio, video and stories; in Italian, Polish, French and English language. She is teacher of photography, street theater, and dance on stilts, for children in ghettos or at-risk communities. She travels across Europe with her lectures: hosted by universities, art festivals, global conferences and small villages. Monika collaborates for many radios as well, both in Poland and in Italy, and with TV, for Repubblica TV and for Rai TV Educational. She has realized a documentary movie: “Noah’s Sons” in Azerbaijan, and has screen-written documentaries, among which the movie “Romani Rat” 2002 by M. Orlandi, on the Holocaust of the Roms, where she had also a leading role and was a storyteller.
Where Gods Whisper (Contrasto 2017); NUR. Zapiski afgańskie (National Geographic 2017); NUR. The Hidden Light of Afghanistan (Electa Mondadori 2013) (selected by TIME as one of the best photobooks of 2013); People of God, a Travel into Another Europe, complete edition (Postcart 2012, Bosz 2012); Rebecca and the Rain (Frassinelli 2007); Sons of Noah (Frassinelli 2006); Jerusalem Lost (Frassinelli 2005); Women, stories (Alinari 2004); Libya Felix (Mondadori 2002).
MOST NOTABLE AWARDS, GRANTS AND NOMINATIONS
Nomination for the National Geographic Society Fellowship 2020; Luxembourg Art Price finalist 2020; VQR Prize for Photography 2019; Travel grant of Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 2019; Leonian Award of W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund 2018; Nomination for the Prix Carmignac The Amazon 2018; Nomination for Award ANI – PixPalace 2016; Nomination for Visa d’Or Daily Press 2015; The National Non Violence Award 2014 (First woman to be given this award); Catchlight, the honourable mention in the Professional Category 2014; Premio Città di Trieste al Reportage 2012; Premio Tomizza 2012; Lucchetta Grant 2011; TEDGlobal Fellowship 2011; The Aftermath Project Grant Winner 2010; Bruce Chatwin Special Award for Photography “Absolute Eyes” 2009; Grant in Visual Arts sponsored by the European Association for Jewish Culture 2005.
2021: Broken Songlines, Fotografica, Bergamo, Italy
2020: Broken Songlines, Festival Isole che Parlano, Palau, Sardegna, Italy
2019: Broken Songlines, Festival della Fotografia Etica, Lodi, Italy.
2018: Nur. Afghan Diaries, Ancona Photo Festival, Italy.
2017: Where Gods Whisper/Sacred Crossings, Centre Européen de Création et de Production, France. Nur. Afghan Diaries, Reggia of Colorno and Exhibition for Emergency, Brescia, Italy. Eyes on Main Street, Wilson Outdoor Photo Festival, USA.
2016: Nur. Afghan Diaries, ANI Pixpalace Award, Paris. Sacred Crossings, The Grotowski Institute, Wrocław. Nur. Afghan Diaries, Lugano, Switzerland.
2015: Where Gods Whisper, Milano, Italy. Haiti of the Souls, Visa Pour l’Image, Perpignan, France.
2013: Auras, Assisi, Italy. Nur. The hidden light of Afghanistan, Paris.
2012: Target Afghanistan, the land beyond the war, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. People of God, Balkan and Caucasian Observatory, Trento. Nur. Afghan Diaries, Il salone degli Incanti, Trieste. Auras, Festival on The Move, Cortona, Italy. Gens du Dieu, Le voyage en Autre Europe, San Malò, France. People of God, Festival Poiesis, Fabriano, Italy. The meaning of life, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma, National Geographic Italia. Through Our Lens: Photographers Reflect on Empowerment, 25 Central Park West Gallery, New York.
2011: Nur, Officine Fotografiche, Rome. Auras, Venice. Russia 2009, Saint Petersburg. Nur, Palazzo Ducale, Venice. Room 16: “Religions in Trieste” Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona.
2010: Auras, Villa Pomata, Sardinia, Italy.
2009: Auras, Castello di Otranto, Italy. Vertical Europe, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa. Elia’s Journey, Festival della Storia, Gorizia. The Reverse Gerund, Rubiera, Italy. Elia’s Journey, Jewish Museum, Trieste. People of God, Katholische Akademie in Bayern, Munchen, Germany.
2008: People of God, Galleria BelVedere, Milan. Auras, Sama Khana, Cairo, Egypt. Rebecca and the rain, Antichi Chiostri, Turin. Auras, Palazzo Blumenstihl-Istituto Polacco, Rome. Auras, ex Monastero dei Benedettini, Catania, Italy.
2007: People of God, World Social Agenda, Bolzano. Rebecca and the Rain, Verona and Genoa. People of God, Centro Candiani, Venice; Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna; Palazzo Ducale, Genoa. Rebecca and the Rain, Basilica di S. Petronio, Bologna.
2006: Sons of Noah, Porta Sant’Agostino, Bergamo. People of God, Palazzo Geremia, Trento.
2005: Women, stories, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence. People of God, Italian Institute of Culture, Colonia. People of God, Asti. People of God, Museo Civico, Reggio Emilia. The Return on the Don, Strehler Theatre, Milan. Le ha ma la ya, Rome. People of God, Remembrance Day, Milan.
2004: People of God, Galleria Nazionale d’Umbria, Perugia. People of God, Teatro Sociale, Bergamo. Menschen Gottes, Langer Foundation, Bolzano. People of God, Europe and the Balkans International Network University of Bologna, Forlì. People of God, Polish Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria.
2003: People of God, Polish Institute, Budapest, Hungary.
2002: People of God, Polish Institute, Rome. Martinka gipsy and other stories, Turin.