The artless beauty of tribal life and times

DIFFERENT LIFE

He visited Bastar for the first time in 2002 for shooting an advertisement. Arrested by the beauty of the place, located in Chhattisgarh, Manoj Kumar Jain was more fascinated by his close encounter with the life of the locals and the tribals.

Barely could he understand their daily life before he had to leave after his work finished. But Jain returned to Delhi with a sense of curiosity to know more about the people and their tradition. 

His inquisitiveness was sated when he visited Bastar in 2006 and 2008. He clicked the pictures of the people the way he wanted to. 

“We live in cities where everything is easily accessible but Bastar was a surprise to me,” says Jain taking a pause. “Barter system still exists there,” he continues in his heavy rustic voice as we look at his photographs on Bastar titled as ‘The Forgotten Frames’ and exhibited at India Habitat Centre. 

Pointing towards one of his most favourite picture – the portrait of an old man, Jain says, “He is a tantrik. In local language he is called ‘shamon’. He keeps the evil spirits away. Perhaps they are considered to be as village doctors who deal with some kind of supernatural powers. While I was taking the photograph of the temple, I came across him. He was in a kind of ‘possession’ and was gradually getting into trance.

 His body was shivering when I clicked his picture.” Interestingly, when you look at the picture you can only see the depth and trace a sense of anger in the tantrik’s eyes. 

Jain, who graduated in commercial art from College of Art, 1992, has clicked only portraits of the local and tribal community and all his photographs are in black and white. “Every face was interesting to me. Their attire, the way they look into camera and their interest in knowing about the life in a city was intriguing to me,” he says, directing towards the picture of a tribal woman clad in a white saree and standing adjacent to a tree.  

As we move, there are photographs of men enjoying a cock fight - a favourite pastime of the tribal menfolk, a man carrying a pig in a plastic bag and sitting on his bicycle, a tribal boy dressed in a traditional style, wearing a crown made from feathers and a dhoti folded till his knee and a youngster wearing a ring made of 50 paise and one rupee coins. There are pictures of local practices too like designing a memory wall.  

“When somebody in the village has an unnatural death, a memory stone with wooden carvings is put up by the family. It has images of all kind of animals and birds like owl, fish and snake,” says Jain, who has also captured the changing trends in village. Like the fascination of young boys to wear sunglasses and branded T-shirt. “The simplicity of the community is getting lost somewhere as they are getting more close to the materialistic world,” he says.

The exhibition is on view till August 15 at Visual Arts Gallery from 10 am to 8 pm

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