This book is a profound meditation on memory and identity

From “22 Days in Between,” published by Disko Bay, 2023. (Salih Basheer)

Photographer Salih Basheer’s parents passed away when he was only 3 years old. Because of this, any memory he has of them is fractured, a wisp of smoke that quickly fades away.

Bashir’s newly published book, “22 Days in Between” (Disko Bay, 2023) is a project he embarked on trying to collect as many memories of his mother and father as he could. It is a highly charged, emotional, journey to flip through the book’s pages.

What you’ll see in Basheer’s compilation of memories are, understandably, fragments. Along with photographs, we are presented with children’s drawings and the collected memories of his brothers and sisters. The sense of loss and yearning in the book is palpable.

Fractured and fragmented memories can lead to a struggle with identity. Memories are our anchor to our formative past. Misplacing them can lead to anguish as we try to form ourselves as we get older. At least that’s the way I think about it.

The memories we keep with us from childhood, especially, provide links to who we are and who we were — who our parents are and who they were. They can trigger thoughts of calm, the safety of a mother’s hug, the memory of a father’s whiskers rubbing against your face while getting a reassuring hug.

Basheer has few of these linkages. As he says in the preface to “22 Days in Between”:

“I have only a few memories of my parents. I remember I was once with my mother in our house yard, and I was horrified by the noise of an airplane flying low spraying insecticide. I was trying to hide in my mother’s arms. I also remember I was once with my father as he was driving us in his white Fiat to the mosque for the Tarawih prayer. It was Ramadan and I went with my mother to the women’s section on the second floor to enjoy watching the prayers from above.”

“22 Days in Between” is a small book. It reminds me of a keepsake, something left over from a different life that connects you to the past. Its smallness gives it a feeling of intimacy that is only reinforced by the words and images inside.

This is a remarkable book that plumbs the depths of memory and the building blocks of identity. It is a gem. It’ll suck you in and is a profound excavation of what it means to be human, pitfalls, elation, misery and sadness combined.

Basheer is a Sudanese documentary photographer who started his photographic studies in Cairo but then ended up studying photojournalism in Denmark. His work has been exhibited globally.

You can find out more about the book, and how to buy it, here. And you can find out more about Basheer on his website, here.