India Insight

“Homelands” exhibit in Delhi examines identity through art

Indians give high importance to the concept of identity and kinship, especially in a land that is home to hundreds upon hundreds of different languages and ethnic groups. Indian curator Latika Gupta explores this theme in “Homelands”, an exhibition of works by 28 leading contemporary British artists, all wrestling with the idea of what “home” means in the 21st century.

The artists whose works are displayed include four Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller, Richard Long, Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing. Work by World Press Photo (2007) winner Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Libya, also is on display.

“I wanted to see what it is that makes up our idea of what our identity is. Is it our language that we speak? Is it the place that we come from?” said Gupta. “The exhibition really hopes to raise a set of questions rather than provide answers.”

The theme of the exhibition holds special relevance to Indians, Gupta said.

“Most of the works in the exhibition, the themes that the art addresses, find complete resonance with us here, especially questions of language, family ties, communities, religion. These are the things that we most often use to define ourselves as Indians,” she said.

The exhibition features more than 80 works of photography, painting, print, video and sculpture drawn from the permanent collection of The British Council. It runs at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, until Feb. 14. It will go on display in Kolkata in March, Mumbai in April and Bangalore in the last week of June.

from Photographers' Blog:

Not child’s play

Baran, India

By Danish Siddiqui

When I first took pictures of this child couple in a small village in the desert state of Rajasthan in 2010, I had no idea that I would come back to this village again. But life had something else in store and I have been visiting them every year since, documenting the changes in their relationship and their surroundings.

When I went to their house last week I was greeted by the loud wailing of a baby. It was their four-month-old son Alok, which means enlightenment in Hindi. Last year when I visited them, I learned that Krishna, the child bride, was seven months pregnant. I wasn’t surprised at all but out of curiosity I asked Gopal, her husband, why he was in such a hurry to expand the family. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nothing else to do, no work, life is so boring.” I was a bit taken aback.

Those like me who live in big cities and metros plan meticulously before taking the plunge into parenthood. And here this teenager was telling me that he wanted to have a child and risk his young wife’s life because of boredom. That, again, is a different India.

from Photographers' Blog:

Voices of women in India’s “rape capital”

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

My city is known as the so-called “rape capital of the country”. They say it’s unsafe, it’s dangerous, it’s full of wolves looking to hunt you down. A lot of it may be true. As a single woman working, living and breathing in New Delhi, I have had my fair share of stories. But the labels and opinions associated with the city were accepted on one level – no one questioned them, no one asked why – until a brutal tragedy one cold December night which shook the world and forced everyone (the authorities, the public, the lawmakers) to ask themselves uncomfortable questions and focus the on safety of women. It is still an ongoing, raging debate, thank heavens.

Meanwhile, I decided to focus on what Delhi’s women face and what they think about it. How do they go on with their lives, their work, their families? Just trying to understand the magnitude of how unsafe India’s capital is became one of the most challenging and emotionally exhausting assignments of my career.

SLIDESHOW: INDIA'S WOMEN DEFEND THEMSELVES

From call center executives to advertising professionals to tea stall workers, everyone has their stories and how they cope with it. Take the example of Chandani, 22, one of the few female cab drivers in the city. As she drove me around the city, a policeman stopped us at a barricade near India Gate. When he saw that a woman was driving the cab, he scraped his jaw off the floor. “You also drive a cab?” he said with an expression that suggested that he had spotted the Abominable Snowman. “I am doing a very unconventional job for women. Given that I do night shifts, I carry pepper spray and I’m trained in self-defense. Initially I faced a lot of problems but driving cabs at night has helped me overcome my fears,” Chandani said.

Photo gallery: Revisiting Satyajit Ray through Nemai Ghosh’s lens

In an age when moviegoers bask in the fleeting “Dabangg” culture of Bollywood, a visit to an exhibition displaying the works of photographer Nemai Ghosh in Indian cinema’s centennial year is liberating. Ghosh, a Padma Shri awardee, is credited with documenting an aspect of show business that is far removed from the usual focus of the press. In a decades-long career, the accidental photographer — he held the camera for the first time in exchange for a loan — had filmmaker Satyajit Ray as his greatest muse.

“Ghosh’s photographs of Ray, at home and on the sets suggest a rare intimacy, with the poignancy of these images of the master at work, directing and in many cases enacting roles,” said Pramod Kumar KG, curator of the exhibition, ‘Nemai Ghosh: Satyajit Ray and Beyond’, on display at the Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas Village.

Here’s a picture of India’s only Academy Award winner, Satyajit Ray, or Manik-da, as he was fondly called, immersed in work at his study in Calcutta.

Photo gallery: From Haridwar to Rishikesh, why you don’t stick to the itinerary

You may be ready with the camera equipment and travel gear, but what if the first sight of your destination doesn’t appeal to you? That happened to me when I reached Haridwar. The dirt and grime appalled me, and I wasn’t up for an “exotic India” photo op. Worse, the manager of an ashram refused to provide accommodation because I was a single male. The other lodging house guy I spoke to over the phone was equally reluctant and for the same reason.

Walking past the innumerable beggars and the drying Ganga river, I found a spot where a man was resting under a tree.

 

Disgruntled, I hopped into the next autorickshaw and reached Rishikesh, about 20 kilometres from Haridwar. The view cheered me up.

from Photographers' Blog:

Meeting a modern-day Gandhi

Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

"I am Gandhi!" he says firmly. "His soul resides inside me," he announces, smiling unwaveringly.

I stare blankly at the man who is wearing a dhoti wrapped around his waist, thick black oval glasses and carrying a cane just like Mahatma Gandhi.

GALLERY: MODERN-DAY GANDHI

Two weeks ago, I called this man asking to meet him and he politely told me not to say "hello."

Photo gallery: from Dussehra melas to Durga Puja pandals

I don’t know if the smartphone-toting Indian of the shopping malls still frequents festival melas. As for me, I can’t help but feel drawn to these vibrant mass gatherings during festivals.

Here, a spinning wheel juts out of a busy crossing in west Delhi. I spent a lot of time shooting it and finally settled on this image:

I am an ardent fan of jalebis and there’s hardly a month in my office that goes by without us feasting on them. I was tempted to grab these freshly cooked jalebis, but then I was in no mood to nurse a case of Delhi belly.

from Photographers' Blog:

Farewell old lady of Mumbai

By Vivek Prakash

Many things are uncertain in Mumbai - the weather, the possibility of an appointment actually happening on time, the chance of getting through the city without hitting some obstacle or other…

But one thing is perfectly certain: you’re wanted at the traffic jam, they're saving you a seat.

If, like me, you think owning a car in Mumbai is a pointless waste of time, you will take a taxi several times a week. So your place in Mumbai’s permanent gridlock is likely to be inside a Premier Padmini taxi, a vehicle I have come to think of as the grand old dame of Mumbai's streets.

Photo gallery: Preparing for Durga Puja in Noida

There is a workshop near my home in Noida, east of Delhi, where sculptors mould clay into idols of Hindu gods and goddess all through the year for festivals. These occasions mean brisk business for the craftsmen, who work in a makeshift hut covered by tin sheets. The idols sell for 500 to 700 rupees, depending on the size.

The idols of the goddess Durga and other characters in her story are being built because the Durga Puja is only a week away. I asked the people in the workshop if I could shoot, and they gave in after a bit of persuasion. The pictures that follow are of these craftsmen painting the idols of Durga.

The annual Durga Puja is a five-day festival commemorating the death of the buffalo demon Mahishasura at the hands of Hindu goddess Durga. Traditionally a festival celebrated in eastern India — it is the biggest festival in the state of West Bengal — Durga Puja is now celebrated in north India with much gusto and fanfare.

Photo gallery: On World Sight Day, photography by ‘Blind With Camera’

Photographers say you need to have an eye to take pictures. These children, who lack some or all of their vision, have applied the same maxim to their photography. The pictures that you see below are images that I took of an exhibition by the Mumbai-based project ‘Blind With Camera’. The show is on display at the Alliance Francaise in New Delhi until Oct. 18th, and I shot these images on the World Health Organization’s World Sight Day.

“…Tactile, audio clues, visual memories of sight, warmth of light and cognitive skills are used by the visually impaired photographers to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture,” said Partho Bhowmick, a member of the project.

The first picture was taken at Dadar Kabutarkhana in Mumbai during a workshop in 2010. The photographer, Bhavesh Patel, who was born blind, according to the exhibition brochure, said he followed the direction of the sound of pigeons flying and took the picture based on the audio clue.

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