Monday, May 12, 2008

Bondas represent a unique facet of humankind: Premgit

Premgit is one of the noted photographers, famous for his strong urge to explore the world. He has visited different countries and spent times with multi-ethnic minorities including the Akha and Hmong of Laos, the Lantien, Lisu and Padaung of northern Thailand, and Sadhus in Varanasi, and other parts of India.

During his 28 years of photography, the UK-based photographer has come in contact with tribals of Orissa, the eastern state of India. These include the Bonda, Mali, Paroja and Gadabaa tribes. He captured in his lens various facets of Tribal lifestyle. They are printed on silver gelatin fiber based paper using traditional darkroom techniques.

Really, the photos that he captured speak millions of words, I can not express here. Being the son of Orissa, I am very much familiar with the Tribal lifestyle. And the photographs brought back my luminous memories that I had with these tribals.

I am deeply impressed at his wonderful job. With a heavy heart, I wrote a mail to Premgit for an interview. He agreed. For, I am ever grateful to him.

1. How did you get into photography?

A cheap plastic Kodak camera was my introduction to picture taking and in my late teens I progressed to a decent SLR.

2. Can you describe the first photograph you took that made you, or someone else, thinks that you might have a calling as a photographer?

At about this time I did some close up work of flowers, and with encouragement from my father, who was an artist, and friends, kept on persevering.

3. What types of assignments attract you most?

I have always worked on a thematic basis, and have found that photographing things that touch me in some way always produce the best images. In the last few years, the plight of tribal peoples of Asia and especially India prompted me to explore this photographically.

4. I hope you have visited different parts of India. What is your impression on India?

I have been traveling in India for over 30 years, and. for 6 years I lived in an ashram. The country and the people have therefore had a great influence on my life. During my lifetime I have seen the population more than double and places change dramatically, but the soul of India in its people and atmosphere has remained the same.

5. The image gallery (Your) made me clear that during your visit and stay in India, you came in contact with Orissa tribals. How is the experience?

I went to Orissa for the first time last year, and was lucky enough to visit with 5 different tribes. For me it was a great experience.

6. What made you to spend times with Tribals?

I wanted to see how the Orissa tribes differed from the tribes in Laos and Northern Thailand. I found many similarities and few differences, excepting of course the Bondas.

7. Please tell me the peculiarities of Orissa Tribes?

I found extraordinary the way their social structures are almost opposite from that of mainstream India.

8. Which aspects of Bondas have impressed you a lot?

The Bondas must be one of the most primitive tribes in India. They are preserving their ways against governmental and civil pressures, and too me that is admirable. Change is only ever good by consent, and so many tribes I have visited are under formidable pressure. To make them change they have been marginalized and in many countries land grabbing has pushed them right back to the borders. Inappropriate so called help from government can also do much damage. In Orissa I heard of a scheme to raise the standard of housing for one of the villages. All the practical thatched round houses the tribe had been living in for hundreds of years, were knocked down and replaced with concrete block houses with tin roofs. Useless for keeping cool in the summer and certainly a nightmare to spend a monsoon in.

9. As widely known, Bondas are primitive people. They are untouched by rapid strides taking place in all fronts of human civilization. What is your opinion in this regard?

It seems to me that whatever advances that have been made in India have had no effect on their way of life. This has been for hundreds of years the case. They did not strike me as a very curios people. My presence was not of much interest to them. So maybe they have no interest in what happens in the world outside their community. If that is the case then they should be left to simply be themselves. Help in any matter when given should be unconditional.

10. The number of Bondas is steadily dwindling. If it continues, they may be extinct sooner or later. Of all reasons, I believe, the lack of recognition is one of most vital factors. Do you agree on this?

The Bondas represent a unique facet of humankind. I think diversity should be encouraged, and help and resources extended to these people when asked for or when appropriate.

11. What step should government take to protect them?

I think government and civil society should become much more aware of the value these people have in the kaleidoscope of humanity, and celebrate their difference.

12. What is your impression towards Orissa?

I was very impressed by Orissa. It truly is a beautiful state. It does seem to have political problems, of which I don’t fully understand. Food and water will be great issues in years to come, so I think as much support to all the farmers as possible would be to the states great advantage.

13. Before end, please give your frank comment on my blog?

Your blog I found most instructive and interesting. Most of my time is spent in England and of course the issues that you write about are absent from our press. So keep up the good work.


Amaronline said...

Nice article, good work keep it up....

Neel said...

"Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder".Its a classic collection of Orissa tribe. Thanks to Premgit who bought it to limelight.

No wonder its a great article that you have pen down. Keep bring some more of this kind.

Alok said...

I am really happy to see a blog on Odisha. I am impressed by the contents and effort made.

Nice to meet you here in this virtual space.

And thanks for dropping by at my blog.

Raja said...

Very good.

People of Orissa (especially Tribes) feel proud after this story. Outsider even famous foreigner taking interest in Orissa.

Keep up

Abhaya said...

Hai Mr. Bhagaban
Many Congratulations......
This is your effort and talent in the form of an article/ interview.I am vary much impressed for your work even though you may be busy in some other works. Hope you will continue these kind of effort and make Oriya Voice a real speaker about Orissa.
All the best..

Abhaya Kumar Tripathy

Shinu said...

An excellent article to know more about Orissa. The way you are taking an interview is amazing.

Anil P said...

This was a nce, interesting piece.

manmath sahu said...

Good post. I expect more such stuff.

John said...

really I am interested to know more about the triabals. i also saw premgit's photos. they are incredible .