Saturday, December 15, 2012

Young Girl, Banjara Community, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, Morning of November 21, 2009

While working with the good people of Humana People to People India, I was introduced to the Banjara Community. On the first day of my first visit I arrived to a festival arranged by the foundation, at which I saw the most beautiful, young girls dressed in exquisite, imaginative fabrics. The designs ranged from floral to abstract, and were worn tightly against the upper torso and loose from the waist down in pleated skirts.

Four years later during my last visit to the projects of Humana People to People India, we had an opportunity one morning to visit on our own time a few villages populated by the Banjara Community. Once again my work was fortunate enough to be given this chance and we decided to leave quite early in the morning to arrive as the sun lifted above the horizon.

The drive was as always a beautiful experience for me. Waking up very early in Rajasthan during November is always a cold experience. Usually there is a mist and everyone is moving about gathering themselves for that day's work. You see men huddled around a fire, or maybe a coffee stand, warming each other up in small circles.

We arrived at the first village only to find out that the girls were taken to the town for school. This happened to be a sporadic event and today was the day the government school decided to pick them up for classes. I was quite sad at the news (happy for them of course regarding their education) but did see a chance to photograph a few children remaining behind perhaps because of their age.

We asked to photograph the boys first, always a good idea, and they agreed quickly. We then photographed a couple of young girls, always keeping an eye on the young man in charge so as to make sure that he feels comfortable with the attention being given to the girls. The young girl above happens to be one of the girls left behind by the bus, and she was perhaps glad that she missed classes on this day. Only she knows if this is true.

Humana People to People India works with these and other communities, providing an education as a starting point. Once these children attend classes for three years they are encouraged to join the formal government school system, having caught up to their peers through the bridge schools HPPI offers. Many of the Banjara children work in the local towns as maids, as gatherers of plastic/metal/glass and so forth.

They live an existence that is day to day, and move from one area to another sometimes because they are forced to do so by the local populations. They lack proper identifications at times and are denied basic social services as a result. I admire their strength and tolerance towards me and my work, and hope that one day the world around them will appreciate their beauty as much as I have since that first day back in 2006.

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Halim Ina Photography