Photographer Mahesh Shantaram highlights the plight of Africans in India

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:31 IST | Shraddha Uchil |

In January this year, an angry mob attacked a young Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru for no fault of hers. The state government denied that the attack was a racist one

Abdul-Kareem from Nigeria, living in Jaipur. Pics courtesy/Tasveer for Mahesh Shantaram
Abdul-Kareem from Nigeria, living in Jaipur. Pics courtesy/Tasveer for Mahesh Shantaram

In January this year, an angry mob attacked a young Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru for no fault of hers. The state government denied that the attack was a racist one. However, there have been several other incidents in the recent past that can, in fact, be termed racial attacks. Photographer Mahesh Shantaram, through his series The African Portraits, hopes to raise awareness about the racism faced by the community in India.

Misana from Tanzania, living in Bangalore
Misana from Tanzania, living in Bangalore

The photographs, which will be on display in the city starting tomorrow at an exhibition organised by Tasveer, document the lives of Africans living in India through intimate portraits. “I didn’t know my curiosity about why this was happening would one day lead to an obsession,” says Shantaram. He adds, “I began in Bengaluru — where I am based — and travelled to Manipal, Jaipur, Delhi and Hyderabad. I’ll be visiting a Nigerian community while I’m in Mumbai, too.”

Hamza and Shukura from Nigeria, living in Jaipur. Pic courtesy/Trishna Mohan
Hamza and Shukura from Nigeria, living in Jaipur. Pic courtesy/Trishna Mohan

He chooses to focus on students, which he believes is a small and vulnerable group with nowhere to seek redressal in a society so deeply prejudiced against them.

In each photograph, it is evident that Shantaram has spent ample time getting to know his subjects, allowing for a level of ease. Moreover, having been captured at night, the pictures are atmospheric, adding to the intimacy.

Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram

With this ongoing project, Shantaram admits that he has stepped beyond being just a photographer. “Although I didn’t ask for it, there is a component of activism in my work, ” he says.

He shares that he makes it a point to seek out African communities everywhere he travels, even if involves making a detour while on another assignment. “At the end of the day, I’m just looking for ordinary people with ordinary stories,” he says.

On: December 3 to 10, 11 am to 7 pm (Sundays closed)
At: Institute of Contemporary Indian Art, Rampart Row, Kala Ghoda
Call: 22048138

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