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Nuzugum Lives Among Us

Xinjiang, China

by Eleanor Moseman

Published June 2024

In Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Northwestern China, over one million ethnic Uyghurs have been apprehended by the government and now live behind the “Black Gate” (qara derwaza).

As Uyghurs disappear, the women outside these prison walls face systematic repression. Women are forced into marriage with Chinese men, not allowed to speak their native language, and sent across China to work in factories. The worst-case scenario is their children being taken away and put into orphanages, subjected to human trafficking and alleged organ harvesting.

The women of Xinjiang are true heroines. Even during these dangerous and precarious times, they live their life unobstructedly: as if their home's safety, love, and stability were guaranteed.

Uyghur heroines are nothing new, as a Uyghur allegory dates back to the 19th century about a woman by the name of Nuzugum from Kashgar. In this story, Nuzugum “kills an enemy outsider and she is forced to marry rather than yield her chastity and bear his children.” The women of Xinjiang don't have blood on their hands but instead fight against outsiders with resilience, bravery, and dedication to their families and country.

Eleanor Moseman

Eleanor Moseman is a photographer, adventuress, and storyteller focusing on social and cultural narratives involving women and persecuted groups of people around Asia. More specifically, she visually conserves the politically sensitive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, drawing international awareness to the humanitarian issues of persecuted Buddhists in Tibet and the Muslim Uighurs (or Uigur community) of Xinjiang.

With a BFA in Photography and Film from Virginia Commonwealth University, Eleanor now uses her photography and storytelling skills to contribute to the research of anthropologists, historians, conservationists, and activists. She speaks fluent Mandarin and is beginning her third year of Tibetan language studies at Indiana University. Eleanor is deeply committed to women’s issues that range from persecuted Buddhist and Muslim women to female competitors in the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan.

In addition to her documentary-style work, Eleanor is also a noted architectural and interior photographer with assignments that have taken her throughout Asia and the United States. She also owns and manages a photography studio and gallery, “The Lone Huntress Photography Studio” in Dayton, Ohio where she creates portraits and displays her work from around the world.

With Tibet being blocked off from the world since she left three years ago, Eleanor plans to return as soon as possible to continue her long-term work, begin new projects, and share how this delicate region has changed over the last few years. As one of the few photographers working continually in the region for over a decade, she feels a responsibility to document and share what has transpired politically, physically, and culturally since Covid changed the world.

Follow Eleanor Moseman on Instagram

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