The Faraway Pavilions – North East India A Living Ethnic Museum

The Faraway Pavilions – North East India A Living Ethnic Museum
Shyamal Datta
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A priest, a tribal couple, a descendent of an indentured generation and a girl child all shot in North East India, contribute to this image set. This region of the world is known by anthropologists to have the highest density of ethnic diversity in the planet. My work is to document and capture the profiles of these peoples, some of whose cultures are on the way to extinction. North East India comprises eight provinces or states in about 260,000 square kilometres. This is roughly the size of the state of Oregon in the United States. It is home to astonishingly over 220 ethnic groups and an equal number of languages making it a veritable live anthropological museum. This incredible diversity of cultures - many of whom are dying - attracts me passionately. The topography is equally varied from massive rivers flowing from Tibet through it to grasslands, soft undulating hills to high snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. The thought of urgently documenting the profiles and portraits of the peoples of this region before the onslaught of a fast approaching globalization wave has made me come here andset out on a mission to photograph these unique cultures. In this image set is a tribal woman from the state of Arunachal Pradesh with a permanent tattoo on her face, an Assamese girl child, a tribal couple from the state of Nagaland in their ceremonial dress, a tea tribe woman - descendents of an indentured slave community and a priest. Each of these persons with completely dissimilar cultures and languages and history have a long and fascinating story of ethnic migration to this region since hundreds of years. Yet, packed in to a small geographic region - they live together reasonably well. This phenomenon spellbinds me photographically speaking.

August 14, 2013