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, photojournalist, writer, filmmaker, teacher and curator, TED fellow, based in Italy, is exploring the shared sacred places along the borderlands of Monotheism, the nomadic tribes, the minorities, the migrants, the outcasts, the dispossessed in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia, Africa, and Caribbean.
She published as a freelance with La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, GEO, National Geographic, The New York Times – Lens, TIME Lightbox, Courrier International, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, RevueXXI, Virginia Quarterly Review and others.
Born in 1966 in Warsaw, she has studied Polish Philology at the University of Warsaw, and also anthropology, philosophy, theology, dance and theater. She speaks eight languages. She has worked as an actress and theatre director as well.
Among her books: “Libya Felix” Mondadori; “Figli di Noè” Frassinelli (minorities and faiths in Azerbaijan); “Rebecca e la pioggia”, Frassinelli (the nomadic Dinka tribe in South Sudan); “Gerusalemme perduta” with Paolo Rumiz, Frasinelli 2005 (the Eastern Christians); “God’s People, a travel into another Europe”, Postcart/Frassinelli Italy and in Polish language “Boży ludzie”, Bosz Poland 2012 (20 years of researches about minorieties in East Europe and Israel). “Nur. Zapiski afgańskie/Nur. Afghan Diaries” National Geographic 2017, Poland. The book “NUR. The hidden light of Afghanistan”, Electa Mondadori Italy 2013, was selected by TIME as one of the best photographic book of 2013, recently published in a new photo-edition by National Geographic in Poland: “Nur. Afghan Notes” (“Nur. Zapiski afgańskie”). Her last book is “Where Gods Whisper”, published in September 2017, in English and Italian language with Contrasto.
Her research about religions were presented in Rome under the auspices of the Polish governement, in Cairo in the samakhana of the mevlana dervishes – under the auspices of the Italian Government; in the Aragonese Castle of Otranto during the Festival of Jewish Culture Negba-toward the South; during the Meeting on Jesus in Conciliation Auditorium of Rome and in Assisi invited by the CEI (Italian Bishops’ Conference); in Jewish Museum in Bologna and Trieste, in Theologische Akademie Bayern in Munchen, at Milan Book City Fair, in San Malo during the festival Etonnants Voyageurs: she has displayed her works in more than 90 personal exhibitions in the world.
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.
The National NonViolence Award, “awarded for the first time to a woman, was given for MB’s work 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. MB makes the invisible visible by exploring people’s soul, by uniting humanity in an image’.”
MOST NOTABLE AWARDS, NOMINATIONS AND GRANTS
Nomination for National Geographic Society Fellowship 2020; VQR Price for Photography; Travel grant of Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 2019; Leonian Award/ W. Eugene Smith grant in Humanistic Photography 2018; Nomination for 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; Catchlight, the honourable mention in the Professional Category 2014; Tomizza Award 2012; Lucchetta Grant 2011; Nomination for Beata Pawlak Award 2011; TEDGlobal Fellowship 2011; The Aftermath Project Grant Winner 2010; Bruce Chatwin Special Award for Photography “Absolute Eyes” 2009; Grant in Visual Arts / European Association for Jewish Culture 2005.
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.