During the past few years the world has become painfully aware of the 99%, formerly considered the silent majority, through protests, Occupy movements and Arab uprisings. The focus has since returned to the masses, as the front pages of newspapers have been plastered with images of thousands marching through the streets instead of presidents meeting each other in summits. But despite high hopes for change, the world seemed to slowly be returning to its former status quo.
Images of world leaders smiling and laughing together while disregarding the plight of their citizens have re-emerged on the media landscape. In addition, publications like Forbes regularly boast about the world’s youngest billionaires or “the world’s 100 richest, most popular, beautiful, etc. people”. The rest of the globe was being forgotten amidst the glamour.
Enter The Other Hundred project, which brings back the focus to the people. According to their website “The aim is to highlight the lives of those who are not rich, but who deserve to be celebrated. We invited talented photojournalists from all over the world to submit photographs accompanied by stories and picked the best 100 entries for publication in a hardcover photo-book.”
They received more than 11,000 submissions from over 150 countries. They had to decrease the number to 100 images, which proved to be a tough job: “The quality of the submissions was astoundingly high, taking even our jury of professional photographers and editors by surprise.”
One of the final entries submitted featured an Egyptian subject and was taken by Spanish human rights photographer Fernando Moleres. The description of the photograph on the website states “Shaimaa Yehia, 28, is a violinist with the Al Nour Wal Amal orchestra, a 40-strong ensemble of blind women from Cairo. The orchestra, which plays a full range of string and wind instruments, is run by the Al Nour Wal Amal Association, an Egyptian non-governmental organisation that takes in blind girls from Cairo’s poor.
“The association, founded in 1954 and whose name means light and hope, gives the girls a formal education in the mornings, emphasising literacy and vocational training, and teaches them music in the afternoons. Shaimaa entered when she was seven. In her first year, she was taught to read and write words and musical notes in Braille.
“The following year, aged eight, she chose the violin as her instrument. She then spent five hours a day practicing and just one year later became a member of the association’s junior orchestra. At 12, she entered the senior orchestra, since then travelling with it across Europe, to North America and to Australia.
“Unable to read music as they play, the orchestra’s musicians memorise it, typically carrying around 45 pieces in their heads at any one time, among them works by the Egyptian composer, Ahmed Aboeleid, and classical European pieces by Mozart, Brahms, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and others. Members of the Al Nour Wal Amal orchestra take a break during a concert at the Manoel Theatre in Malta’s capital, Valletta.”
In addition to the book, there will be a series of exhibitions touring the world, starting with Hong Kong in October. The publication will include writings from famous authors such as Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi , Pankaj Mishra, who will write the foreword, Nigerian author Chika Unigwe, Chinese poet Bei Dao and journalist Amy Goodman. The book is expected to be published on 17 October and a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the featured human rights issues in the photographs.