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'Humans of Khartoum': Arresting street portraits capture spirit of Sudan's capital

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 5:26 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
"Humans of Khartoum" is a photo series launched by Qusai Akoud to pay tribute to the people living in the Sudanese capital. Click through the gallery to read excerpts of Akoud's blog that go with the photographs he took in the streets of Khartoum. "Humans of Khartoum" is a photo series launched by Qusai Akoud to pay tribute to the people living in the Sudanese capital. Click through the gallery to read excerpts of Akoud's blog that go with the photographs he took in the streets of Khartoum.
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A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
A tribute to the people of Khartoum
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sudanese Qusai Akoud is the founder of "Humans of Khartoum" photo series
  • The project captures the spirit and life of people living in the Sudanese capital
  • Click through the gallery to see some of the people featured in the series

African Voices is a weekly show that highlights Africa's most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera. Follow the team on Twitter.

(CNN) -- On the banks of river Nile, an old fisherman rests upon his rickety boat under the hot Khartoum sun. His gaze is strict, his chiseled features strong and commanding. Yet, as he slowly moves his scarred right arm to bring a cup of tea to his lips, his withered face softens into a gentle smile.

"He seemed very strong, but welcoming," says Qusai Akoud as he recalls the moment he approached the Khartoum fisherman to ask for a photograph and a quick chat. "He and his friends, they come fish here every morning and sell their fish in the fish market."

Last May, Akoud, a 27-year-old graphic designer from the Sudanese capital, set out to pay a tribute to the people living in his hometown through a series of artistic street portraits.

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Inspired by Brandon Stanton's "Humans of New York," a popular photo blog that was launched in 2010 featuring photographs of complete strangers in the American metropolis and has since been replicated around the world, Akoud trawled the neighborhoods of Khartoum and the banks of river Nile to capture the spirit of his city and the stories of the people living in it.

"I wanted to tell the stories of the humans of Khartoum and let the world know about the lives of the people of Sudan," says Akoud, who aptly named his project "Humans of Khartoum."

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From old fishermen at the bustling El Mawrada market and shisha-smoking men relaxing in the gardens of Tuti Island to women selling tea in downtown markets and young upwardly mobile professionals strolling near the University of Khartoum, Akoud's project provides a captivating and heartfelt insight of life in and around the Sudanese capital.

The young photographer says it hasn't been difficult to get strangers to open up to him, but admits to often having trouble to persuading women to allow him to photograph them.

Old people always attract me. They have wonderful stories.
Qusai Akoud, Humans of Khartoum founder

"People are open to their pictures being taken -- it's not as hard as it seemed in the beginning of the project -- however, women refuse to have their photos taken due to cultural constraints."

Akoud says he is fascinated by every person he meets but has a particular interest in one specific group of people.

"Old people always attract me," he says. "They have wonderful stories."

Click through the gallery to read excerpts of Akoud's blog that go with the photographs he's taken. You can see all images and stories in the "Humans of Khartoum" blog or Facebook page.

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