Posts Tagged ‘kathputli colony’

Delhi’s Jantar Mantar closed for protests

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

 

 

I was very sad to read that the Delhi government has, under the pretext of the violation of ‘environmental laws’ closed the protest site at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The order was carried out this morning evicting and  razing the temporary shelters of protestors.

For those that don’t know, the street was a kind of Speakers Corner crossed with an Occupy site that allowed a very limited amount of protests to be carried out by those with a grievance. The street – adjacent to the famous monument – was chosen as a protest site in 1993 after the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid movement raised security concerns and the government banned protests at previous demonstrations sites. The Jantar Mantar site was one of the few places where people in the city could protest and let off steam. It was also a fascinating place to walk through and see just what kind of issues affected everyday Indians – and their faith in their democratic right to that protest.

I’d been to a few demonstrations at the Jantar Mantar over the years. They never made great pictures – the gatherings – the pushing and shoving with the police were formulaic and regimented by the authorities. However,  it was always heartening to see the faith that especially the rural poor – many of whom had come from all over the country to shout about their (usually myriad) grievances – displayed. Heartening but of course ultimately futile: policy in India is rarely affected by such organised protests and increasingly one sees that cold, hard hand of the State for what it really is. As a symbol for where modern India is moving the broken tents and the tarpaulin of protesters scattered across the street that I’ve seen this morning in the Indian media could not however be more telling. How similar they look to the scenes that I’m reading about in Kathputli Colony as well today as the authorities seem to have finally decided to tear that Colony down for ‘development’. You can read about my previous writings on Kathputli here.

I leave you with two images. The first from the Jantar Mantar, not of a protest but of what I remember best from the place – engaged activists talking and debating. Creating a space where people were able to discuss their city. The second, from Kathputli in 2014 of local residents discussing the future of their slum colony that had clearly already been decided long ago for them.

Both of these spaces – so crucial to cities are now areas where the poor and voiceless are systematically excluded – and thus from the narrative of Delhi. It’s enough to make you wonder who these cities are actually for…

 

Two men talk by a demonstration near the Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, India

 

A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure, New Delhi, India

 

Kathputli Colony’s last stand

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

 

I’ve written several times over the last few years about Delhi’s Kathputli Colony (or as I knew it, Shadipur Depot) – that Dickensian maze of street performers and magicians that somehow floats on the imagination of the city. This time however, it looks like the city will finally swallow the place. According to Tehelka Magazine, residents of the ‘illegal’ slum – some 3500 families that have been there for forty years – may have to move soon to a re-development far to the North. The site at Shadipur where the land was once worthless is now, as the city grows, worth a fortune. It was sold by the the Delhi Development Authority in 2009 to the Mumbai-beased Raheja Builders however, at what Tehelka suggests was seriously undervalued price to make way for a high rise developments. These would, it was promised, include social housing for the performers families. It seems though that even on paper, the proposed number of dwellings for the artists is far short of the actual number needed. Perhaps with some good reason, the artists families don’t believe that the authorities will make good on their promises to allow them back to the area when it is developed. The project is now stuck in limbo as the Delhi Urban Arts Commission has objected to it. The traditional performers are caught. If they move, they lose their homes and their livelihoods. If they stay, they are likely to be evicted and from previous scenarios that may well be violent. They know however that they are simply powerless actors in a city’s development, caught as they are between tradition and a very cruel version of modernity. Since I made a story in Shadipur nearly a dozen years ago, quite a few photographers have worked here and a film was even made of the struggles of the residents. In some senses it was an easy story; a fairy tale in a bleak metropolis. Most people’s recent treatment of it completely ignored the fact that as Delhi grows and divides even more sharply between those that produce it’s wealth and those that exploit it, the story is no longer about a quaint tinsel-town slum. It is about how Delhi will look in the future. It is about what kind of society India wants for its cities and its people.

In 2010 I wrote about the city’s sweeping of street vendors off the pavements before the Commonwealth Games and I mentioned the excellent book, Trickster City, a collection of writings by those at the sharp end of the slum clearances. As I wrote then

The irony is that many countries celebrate their street culture … and make them a tourist attraction: one has only to think of Singapore and Vietnam. Delhi’s depressing desire to imitate a corporate driven monoculture is certain to lead to a lessening of the city’s heritage.

As I’ve said many times here, I have no sentimental attachment to poverty and no Raj-tinted spectacles through which I view Delhi. I both hate and love the city but the scales are now tipped so far against certain sections of its people that I find it difficult sometimes to walk it’s streets and look some people in the eye.

You can see my original set from Shadipur here

I’ve decided to show some less well known images from the set – some that I have rediscovered. I hope you like them.

 

India - New Delhi - Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. Shadipur Depot, New Delhi, India.The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here - from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed by always return to the Shadipur slum.

India – New Delhi – Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here – from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed but always return to the Shadipur slum.

 

India - New Delhi - A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

India – New Delhi – A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

 

Indian - New Delhi - A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot

Indian – New Delhi – A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in Shadipur Depot

 

India - New Delhi - Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

India – New Delhi – Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

 

India - New Delhi - A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road

India – New Delhi – A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road, Shadipur Depot

 

 

 

Copy.Right?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I’m a big fan of The Travel Photographer’s blog and indeed I’ve been lucky enough to have my work featured there several times. It’s a lovely showcase.

Imitation as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. So imagine how flattered I felt when I saw a similar set to one that I’d previously had shown on that blog on a link to another photographer’s archive page who has also just been featured. Lovely. And published too – in M Magazine, the weekend supplement of The National in the UAE.

I shot my story about a decade ago on transparency film… seems like another age really, though I see that one of subjects, the wonderful Bhagwan Das Bhatt has lost a bit of hair. Obviously not his love of life (or a drop of the hard stuff – of which I remember joining him for one morning…) although I see he has decorated…

Actually, from the selection that I have here – my images are on the left by the way – very little seems to have changed. In fact what struck me was how similar, how… familiar they looked. An homage I’m sure…

Of course I am not suggesting that I am the only photographer that has ever shot in Shadipur – far from it –  Zackary Canepari shot it recently as I am sure have lots of people. For me though, the much underrated Australian photographer Philip Gostelow did it best (and before me) in black and white.

What links them though is their unique vision. Their ability to see things their way.

It was all their own work too… and so easy to find on the internet…

 

 

 

 

I suppose if you were interested in seeing original work then you could look at the set on my website here and you could also read my reportage here… all the words are, please note ©Stuart Freedman.

That’s copyright Stuart Freedman.

Thank you for your time.