Stills from the other side

photography

I am a seed of the tree…’, a unique photo-exhibition
on the life cycle and rituals of the Bene Israel Jews of Ahmedabad, is showcasing at Alliance Francaise.

While the photographs were taken by Bindi Sheth, the text was by Esther David as part of her forthcoming book titled ‘I am a seed of the tree’.

 On receiving a research grant from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University (USA), the two set out visiting the Jewish homes and synagogues in the capital of Gujarat. The result of this was 40 insightful photographs taken over three years.

What was most interesting was that some of the photographs revealed an insider’s perspective, as could be seen in the ‘Yom Kippur’ series or stand-alone ‘Sabbath Shalom’, where people were seen
praying.

Others appeared to be clicked from the eyes of a
fascinated outsider looking in awe at a faith she knew little about, as was the case in ‘Hora Dancing’ and ‘The Sound of Shofar’. A lot of emphasis was also given to rituals, be it in the depiction of Hanukkah, Bar Mitzvah, marriages and
funerals. Food too found its place in the exhibition with kippur chi poorie and matzo leaving one’s mouth watering.

“Esther and I started doing this project three years ago and it’s still an ongoing
project though not as actively as it has been so far. After
receiving the grant, we started looking at different Jewish establishments in Ahmedabad. It took me a while to get accustomed to everyone but I had an advantage since I knew Marathi,” recalled Bindi, who has been a
photographer for the past 20 years. Asked whether this was her first interaction with Jews, she said, “Yes. Since I’m a Hindu, it was more like documentation initially. But
it started getting interesting once I began to get good
photographs.”

She also expressed that she was extremely happy with the response, especially from the students. 

   Chiranjiv Singh, who attended the exhibition, said, “The photographs are beautiful as well as informative. Seeing them, one realises how the Jewish faith is one more golden strand in the tapestry that is India.”

“It’s a wonderful collection of photographs. It’s nice to know about the history of Jews in connection with Indian and the life they led without persecution,” opined Brij, another visitor. The photography exhibition will be on display till March 29.

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