February 24, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 24th February, 2107

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - Poulomi Basu wins the 2017 FotoEvidence Book Award and the Bronx Documentary Center showcases 38 independent photojournalists who covered New York's activist culture from 1980-2000.

Award:
2017 FotoEvidence Book Award Winner
Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile by Poulomi Basu 

Anjali Kumari Khang is 12 years old. " I am not happy. I do not want to get married. I hope my husband gets a job in a foreign city. Then I can come back to my mother's home and stay for as long as I want to." Child marriage is rampant in the north eastern district of Nepal. Girls are seen as a burden and an additional mouth to feed and are often married off at a very young age. However, it is also a popular belief that villagers often marry off their girls before their menstruation starts, as it is believed if they do so, then their immediate family will got to heaven. Einerwa Village, Saptari district, Nepal.

Born in Calcutta, India, Poulomi Basu describes herself as a storyteller, artist and activist. Her work largely focuses on issues that effect women in isolated communities and since 2013 she’s been investigating the causes and consequences of normalised violence against women in Nepal. You only have to read the stories (and please take time to do so) in order to understand the horror these women endure every month, as violence is directly related to the menstrual cycle. The only reprieve may be during pregnancy!

Blood Speaks: A Ritual of Exile deals with the root of this violence which stems from the Hindu belief that women’s menstrual blood is impure. Poulomi says, “Hidden, under-reported and unresolved, these women are untouchable and, as a result, this violence takes the form of ‘exiles,’ a way to keep menstruation shrouded in mystery and taboo, a weapon to shame women into subservience.” 

A goth, a space of exile by the river. Ujjwali, 48, who was living her exile there told me, "The good men understand what the women are going through, that it is difficult for women when they have to stay out of the house but there are many men who are stupid and illiterate and they don’t want to understand. They beat their wives, call them bad names and obligate them to stay out of the house in the goth. The ones who are educated and understand want their wives to stay at home but its mostly women who make other women stay out."

Saraswati, 16, must live in a closed dark room with her three day old baby because she bled after childbirth. They will be there for 15 days. Not only is Saraswati not allowed to clean herself, she must cook her food in the same tiny dark room even if it means choking her newborn baby with smoke. After childbirth she developed serious health problems. Because of staying in the goth and rarely being allowed to step outside, her legs are now swollen to a point that she can barely walk. She suffers from serious stress disorder and often has breakdowns. She barely spoke a word to me. Nepal, 2016.

"My name is Tanka Thapa. I think I am 25 but you can say what you want. It has been about 10 years since I came to this chau in Basti. My husband lives in India. It has been almost 2 years since I saw him." Tanka sleeps in a hole in the wall during menstruation while observing her ritual. According to her "Chaupadi is a tradition that we are not allowed to sleep at home so we have been told. All the women in the family have to stay in chau. It’s a little better now. Earlier I used to stay out in the open with no shelter." She appears very nervous and uncomfortable and expresses low self-esteem. She mentioned a few times in passing conversation that she is ashamed of herself and is dirty and ugly. She asks me, "Why are you here? No one has ever come to talk to me or spend time with me.” Tanka's self esteem is totally crushed. Basti, Achham. Nepal, 2016.

Devi Ram Dhamala, traditional healer. 59 years old. Traditional healers often use extreme verbal and physical abuse to heal young girls who are ill during menstruation or at other times, believing they are possessed by evil spirit. Surkhet district, Nepal.

A goth, a space of exile by the river. Ujjwali, 48, who was living her exile there told me, "The good men understand what the women are going through, that it is difficult for women when they have to stay out of the house but there are many men who are stupid and illiterate and they don’t want to understand. They beat their wives, call them bad names and obligate them to stay out of the house in the goth. The ones who are educated and understand want their wives to stay at home but its mostly women who make other women stay out."

A multidisciplinary project encompassing still and moving images and the book to be published by FotoEvidence later this year, Blood Speaks is designed to have broad reach. “I want to turn my audience into activists and crack open the veil of silence and shame around women whose lives are shattered by such gender based violence,” Poulomi says.

This is courageous work as the stigma and superstitions run deep, but Poulomi believes now is the time to put these stories on the international agenda and fight to end these “brutal rituals”.

You can pre-order the book at FotoEvidence.

Exhibition: New York
Whose Streets? Our Streets! : New York City, 1980-2000

Bronx Documentary Center

(C) Sandra Lee Phipps

The timing of this exhibition couldn't be more apt. On show is the work of more than 38 independent photojournalists who have captured the collective activist heart of New York over two decades documenting peaceful protests and rallies as well as violent confrontations. This is the first time these photographs have been exhibited together. It's a fantastic collection, and an important historical record. The show is curated by Meg Handler, former photo editor of The Village Voice, historian Tamar Carroll, author of Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty and Feminist Activism, and Michael Kamber, founder of the Bronx Documentary Center.

(C) Corky Lee

(C) Nina Berman

(C) Lisa Kahane

(C) Ricky Flores

(C) Frank Fournier

(C) Mark Peterson

(C) Ricky Flores

Until 5 March
Bronx Documentary Center
614 Courtlandt Avenue (at 151st St.)
Bronx, New York 10451