Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Daughter of the Kanjar Community, Rajasthan, India, November 4, 2009

A daughter of the Kanjar Community, she stands before us on a chair with only the sky behind her. A daughter of the Kanjar Community, she plays in alleys where sex is traded out in the open in exchange for payment. She watches as her aunts and sisters entertain local villagers in the very house that she calls her home. When finished, these very customers will turn and walk in the other direction, barely acknowledging her or her community. When in need, her community is sought after and when in day to day circumstances, it is shunned.

This is the world in which she lives, this is a collection of homes on top of which she stands for her portrait. She has been waiting for over an hour and yet has the wonder of a girl that has just seen the camera for the first time. She is shy at first and then allows her smile to surface for the rest of us to witness.

At an average age of fourteen, the girls of this community are sent to the brothels of the larger cities. Their brothers and uncles go along as well, serving as their handlers, as their managers. While this community has seen generations of this life, their history is rich with another life.

In a previous time, they served as traditional entertainers for all castes. They earned their living in a system of trade by playing music, walking ropes, dancing and acting. With the disappearance of this traditional system and without land to their name or a manner of making a living outside of entertainment, they made the transition to the trade of sex.

A foundation is making a difference in her life as this is written. The Nirvanavan Foundation has established a school in her small village, has provided her with a most enthusiastic teacher, one that smiles as he speaks and one that teaches as he smiles. The classroom is filled with their drawings, the shelves stocked with books. A small curtain acts as a signal that one is entering a sacred place.

After the photography, we walk around the village and watch as women go about their chores. Under one tree, a group of people are playing a game. We set the video to work and document their conversations. After which we are led by a man that is to sponsor land for the new school building. He is a proud man and one that is making an effort to help his community find a different way.

We walk to our truck and say our goodbyes, we hope to return next year to a different community.

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