Portraits from Nagaland


Even decades after making cosmopolitan Delhi our home, most of us carry fond memories of our home town. The years spent there as a child, the annual vacations at grandma’s place, memories of friends and family keep taking us back.

One such nostalgic Delhiite from Nagaland, photographer Zubeni Lotha, decided to go back to her native place Dim­a­pur and explore it through her lens this time. Her tribute to the town –Portraits of Dimapur is now an exhibition at the IIC.

Zubeni did her pre-schooling in Dimapur after which she moved out. “I never really stayed there as an adult due to which I didn’t get to know the city. But a part of me stayed on in Nagaland.”

“My father once met a photojournalist and would tell me often how this man travelled all over the world. As a result, I got interested in media and joined the mass communication course in MCRC, Jamia, in Delhi. After completing this course I made my first documentary on Nagaland, and then, after working with Pablo Bar­t­h­o­l­o­mew, decided to revisit Dimapur to capture it in photographs.”

Dimapur is a flat land unlike the other hilly areas of Nagaland. It has no natural beauty but people from many parts of India have come to inhabit it. Other than the indigenous Nagas, Bengalis, South Indians, Marwaris and many others staying here have made Dimapur a fascinating multi-cultural setting.

“Initially, I was only looking for landmarks, places that I could have visited as a child but couldn’t find any. The reason being that Dimapur is unlike Delhi. There is no famous Connaught Place or India Gate. It is a small, inconspicuous town. During my search for landmarks, though, I kept taking pictures of people. Strangers of all kinds – men and women, children, young and the old, Nagas and non-Nagas, all formed portraits of Dimapur.

“Also, the people there are very shy as compared to Delhiites who are well-exposed to the media. So there was a certain awkwardness in our small talk and convincing them for photographs. This awkwardness formed the mood in the shots. For example, an old lady hid her face with her hands. Her old, knarled and wrinkly fingers made the photograph.”

Thirty-two pictures in black and white and colour are on display. Zubeni, th­o­u­gh, adds, “Portraits... is an ongoing project. I will add to it during my other trips to Nagaland. The journey has only begun.”

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