A new set of translations of the works of the Indian poet Kabir are about to be published by The New York Review Of Books.
A Photographer Confronts His World
It remains one of the most difficult stories I have attempted to do. In 2005 writer Malcolm Garcia and I traveled to Port Au Prince to document the targeting of pro-Aristide activists and Lavalas supporters in the weeks after Jean Bertrande-Aristide was forcibly removed from power. The collaboration of the French and American governments in the illegal and violent removal of a sitting, democratically elected President of a sovereign nation was blatant and well documented.
The diagram below is my attempt to explain the birth and execution of this project I am tentatively calling The Idea Of India. I have been asked to present this work on at least five occasions now and each time I have struggled to really articulate it. The fact remains that I am simply unable to veil under structured thought and organized presentation a work that has largely relied and been inspired by a series of random events, readings and conversations.
You can already see them on the roads leading up to this small town in remote Western Kutch. Pilgrims from as far away as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are slowly, determinedly making their way to the town of Naragram in the Banni region of Kutch, Gujarat. Many are on foot and carrying the green flags that define them as devotees to the famous saint known here as Haji Pir. Dozens can be seen resting at night at local gas stations and truck stops.
Towards the end of this work, Yagnik’s words seem to be weighed down by a terrible despair. Though the work is a broad social science study of Gujarat’s political, economic and cultural history, one can’t help but feel that it is more an attempt to understand and explain the state’s descent into cultural xenophobia and anti-Muslim hysteria that mark its political, social and urban spaces today.
It was a William Dalrymple review, ‘India, The War Over History’, in The New York Review Of Books that first bought my attention to this work. It remains on my reading list and has already been referenced in my India project writings a few times. Gilmartin & Lawrence’s Beyond Turk And Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities In Islamicate South Asia brings together some fine academics to offer a more complex, inter-twined reading of South Asian history, dynasties and communities.
Her face is a mask – without expression and stone hard. Her eyes stare into the distance, oblivious to the hundreds of men and women milling about the courtyard of the shrine. In the dying dusk light, under the glare of incandescent lights from the flower sellers inside the shrine complex, she lets out a scream, her mouth turned up towards the sky, her hands pulling at her hair. She falls to her knees and scratches at the marble floor but is soon back on her feet. I sense the eyes of the crowd turn towards her, and an atmosphere of tense anticipation fills the devotees as they step away from her. She begins to run.
I have been following the turmoil in the Middle East on the amazing Jadaliyya website
Complementing Al-Jazeera’s excellent coverage, Jadaliyya offers the best in-depth analysis of the social, economic, political and cultural factors fueling the tectonic shifts taking place in a region long ignored and seriously misrepresented by American and European media, intellectuals, pundits and academics. I recommend that you bookmark it.
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