Moomtaz Emrith

(Windsor, ON., Canada)

JAFFAR HOUSSAIN (TIBYE) SOBHA hails from a very modest background.  And he is, by nature, a very modest man too — extremely humble and unassuming! Honest and sincere, he is one of those ‘faceless’ personalities in the country who have been striving in the background far from all glitter, working with his camera on his hobby, which is photography, recording, in his own way, what can best be called a “pictorial history” of life in our beautiful multi-cultural MAURITIUS.

He was a kid when his father – a photography buff himself – found out about his son’s interest in photography and gave him a camera as a birthday gift. It was a Leica M3 which would mean the world to young Jaffar! And that was the beginning of Jaffar’s long love-affair with the camera and he would be taking pictures ever since – little knowing that what he was shooting with his small camera, would be, in a way, a part of the history of our island home. Indeed, going through Jaffar’s collection of photographs, is like taking a trip down memory lane, reliving chapters of our history, of life — be it political, social or cultural.  Jaffar has them all in his priceless collection of photos.

I met Jaffar Sobha in 2006 when I was in Mauritius for the launching of my book on the Life and Times of Sir Abdul Razack Mohamed (SARM), which happened to coincide with the commemoration of Sir Abdul’s centenary of his birth. My book then was under print. I was immediately struck by Jaffar’s modesty and his passion for photography. He offered, on his own, to give me any photos of SARM I would like to use in my book. And he assured me that he had “some good ones.” I told him that the script and photos of the book had already been finalized, but I sure could use one of his photographs on the cover. He readily obliged and brought me a few interesting ones to choose from. I did and, later, I was apprised that it was well liked by the public.  I was, certainly, touched by Jaffar’s kindness.

Lately. I was immensely pleased to receive a copy of his recently released book “FLASH BACK”, beautifully edited by VIZAVI Publishing. The book is an impressive collection of peerless photographs of Port Louis in the 60s and 70s taken by Jaffar Houssein Sobha from his valuable collection that he has saved over the years. As I scanned the pages of the book, I was amazed, pleased and deeply impressed while, at the same time, I was filled with a sense of gratitude to Jaffar for preserving those priceless photos of an era that has long passed. Indeed, photography to Jaffar I realized, has been more than a hobby. It is a passion as reflected by his lovely collections.   

Jaffar and his camera are inseparable. We cannot think of one without the other. And we should all be thankful to him. His passion led him to  capture on film for posterity much of what is now gone and which only lives on in our memories. Indeed, Jaffar has come, over the years, to amass a most interesting collection photos all taken by him: pictures of family and friends, and of events, and personalities ranging from politics, sports, culture — as a quick glance at the glitzy pages of “FLASH BACK” amply shows. Indeed, each photograph is nostalgic; they bring back memories of a time that is long gone and which, our young generation of to-day can hardly relate to!

FLASH BACK” is published by VIZAVI in deluxe edition with an inspiring Preface by Reza Issack, former Lord-Mayor of Port Louis and Member of the National Assembly (MNA) of Mauritius. The photos carry flowery  annotations by Jean Clément Cangy in both English and French

I have thoroughly enjoyed the book and it will always hold a pride of place in my library.  In fact, it is an album of ’pictorial history’ of Mauritius in the 60’s and 70’s. It takes us back in time in the past that has remained etched somewhere in our mind and about which we do reminisce now and then with … nostalgia! They are memories that stay with us, in one way or another, all the time. So much so, generations to come will owe Jaffar Houssein Sobha a big “Thank You!” for keeping in pictures a ‘record’ of the past of our beloved Mauritius as it slowly continued to evolve down the years towards nationhood and claim its place as a free and independent state in the Comity of Nations. Indeed, as we go through the pages of “FLASH BACK,” we get the uncanny sense that each picture is ‘talking’ to us… telling us a story! The book is, sure, a keep-sake souvenir.

Sure, Mauritius has come over a long way since achieving independence some fifty years ago. It still has a long way to go and I am sure Jaffar is continuing to capture more pictures for posterity through the lens of his camera. What a gift the photos are for Mauritius and history! I would strongly recommend my fellow countrymen and women to avail themselves of a copy of “FLASH BACK” … to keep for posterity, to recount to their children and grand-children the history of our exotic land which has, in its own unique ways, remained a model of “unity in diversity” and “a shining example of peaceful co-existence in a plural society.”

My heartiest congratulations to Jaffar on his book. He and his friends deserve all the success. It is my wish that he will publish more of his valuable photos in the coming years.  I say “kudos” to Jaffar and the team at VIZAVIZ, for a masterly product!

A picture is worth a thousand words.” Jaffar Sobha’s knows it more than anybody. I hope now that he has blazed a trail for himself and his wonderful pictures, he will bring out more of them from his drawers  show-casing beautiful Mauritius as a country, as a state – indeed, as a little piece of Heaven on earth!