NEWS & EVENTS
NEWS & EVENTS
Tribal Talk, The tribes on Bastar come alive in Nafisa Ali's new coffee-table book
Indian Express, 3rd January 2008, by DIPANITA NATH
BASTAR periodically jolts into our con sciousness thanks to the ceaseless Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh. But, even as terror attacks continued into December 2007, actor-activist Nafisa Aliworke d on he r own story of the region- a coffee-table book of photographs taken by Kolkat a-based photographer Ahmed Ali , Nafisa's fat her and a pioneer in commercial, industrial and advertising photography in India. Itwas, she says, her way of paying tribute to her father as well as recording for posterity people who are standing on the cusp of tradition and modernity.
Bastar: TheLostHeritage focuses on the culture of the region through 150 black-and -white shots by Ali between 1950 and 1963, when women of the Maria and Muria tribles hadn't yet discovered po lyester blouse s and ankle-length saris and the men stillwore headgear with peacock feathers. When the jungles abounded in boars, tigers and other wild animals that lured shikaris like Ali and provided locals a livelihood as beaters and helpers for hunters.
The pictures also reveal quaint traditions. In one, a young girl with four combs tucked into her hair look son smugly. "Young men of the tribal gift combs to the girls they like. When a girl finally gets married, she must keep only the comb her husband has gifted her and return the rest, " explains Nafisa.
The Chhattisgarh government, whom Nafisa had approached to publish the book a few months ago, had reservation s about pictures of the "topless" women, says Nafisa. "But, that's how the women dressed. The Maria tribe went bare -bodied while the Muria girls threw agamchha-type of cloth over their left shoulders. The saris had to be very short since the women worked in the jungles filled with wild animals. Unless their legs were bare, how could the y run from the animals?" she asks.
The concern should be elsewhere, she says- at the large number of Hindu temples and statues that dot the jungles though the tribals have their own God, Dateswari, and never pray at these temples. "Who built the se temples? And where did they disappear?" she asks. The genesis of the book, which is undergoing the final stage of proofreading, was Nafisa's visit to Bastar five years ago . "I found that the people had changed their dress habits and lifestyle. Though I'm all for development of tribals, I realized that India must also preserve the unadulterated innocence of the Bastar tribal culture," she says. In 20m,when Ali was diagnosed with cancer, Nafisa had decided to preserve his works.
The next year, she organized a travelling exhibition of his photographs in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore. Work on "Bastar : The Lost Heritage" began 18 months ago. The original plan was to accompany Ali's paintings with those Nafisa had taken of a modern-day Bastar . "But, my pictures were misplaced when we shifted house: ' she says.
The photographs are accompanied by text by Ahmed Ali and Rosaleen Mulji. The book is likely to hit the stores in a month and will be priced at around Rs. 2,700.