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Mongolia’s traditional, nomadic way of life is still alive across the country’s vast plains and steppes. It’s a harsh existence, steered by the seasons, and at the mercy of the elements.
Starting in 2000, photographer and ethnographer Hamid Sardar embarked on a mission to capture the nomads of Mongolia. The result is a book published 16 years on: Dark Heavens: Shamans & Hunters of Mongolia, a captivating album of epic photographs telling the story of the people, the seasons and the animals of this landlocked Asian nation.
Sardar’s photography speaks for itself – the landscapes, just like their people, are raw, rugged and wild. But in almost every photograph, the connection between man and nature, especially man and animal, is present.
One of the most surprising sights in Dark Heavens is the recurring image of the reindeer, kept by the Duhalar reindeer nomads. Based in Mongolia’s Hovsgol Province, they are thought to be direct descendants of the people who domesticated reindeer thousands of years ago in the Siberian forests.
The Duhalar rely on their reindeer for food and transportation, but also relate to them spiritually. In fact, the book constantly references the Mongolian nomads’ sacred spiritual bond with animals, from wolves to horses to eagles.
In other parts of the book, Sardar reveals mysterious shamanistic rituals, as well as intimate scenes from within the nomadic communities’ gers (tents).
Dark Heavens is a rare glimpse into a culture that has inspired many travelers to visit Mongolia, but that remains elusive and secretive. In this book, every page spells a new adventure.