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Tribal spectres

The photographs focus on contemporary textures of day-to-day life in a tribal world



Looking Forward

IF INDIA has a timeless tradition it is theirs. Tribals have resisted hierarchy and maintained ancient collectivities and ways of life. The expression "tribal identity" has sharp political resonance. But that resonance is felt and read almost entirely in ethno-social terms. It is a sign of our times that the one group who have hardly participated in the global parleys on "sustainable development" are the ones who probably live most sustainably.

`Tribal Moments' an exhibition of photographs by S.N. Palvai, is a tribute to the gentility of these people and the light tread of their lives on this earth. Since 1994 Palvai - a professional photojournalist who also dabbles in action cinema and has been part of the film world for more than a decade - has captured the everyday lives of tribals in the Araku Valley mostly while filming in the region.



S.N. Palvai with his works. — Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

Palvai's artistically inclined mind has led him to wield his Nikon as a painter uses his brush. The 41 colour photographs on display are both technically faultless and artistically mature and sensible. Serene and verdant landscapes are echoed in the photograph titled `Companion' - a clash of green fields, red earth, a black pup and a woman balancing pots. `Different Strokes' has an enterprising woman on the ladder plastering a white wall with cow dung. Three delightful young girls play in ankle-deep sun-dappled water with a stick in `Three Bold Women'. `I am the monarch of all I survey', is the look that the loincloth clad, rugged, old man filmed against crumbled earth seems to portray in `Old Guard' and `Naked King'. A contented trio of grandmother, grandson and dog comprise `Leisure Time.' The wonder of childhood is seen in `Living Toys' where young boys ride roughshod on willing dogs and the grey-shirted boy trailing along a granite quarry who seems to have lost his. Bronzed, nose-ringed groups of women and children dream into the distance in `Looking Forward.' A young girl perched on a wooden stile in `It's My Horse', women squatting in a group in `Women Parliament' and the tribulations of migration in `Let Us Begin Again' complete with charpoy and few belongings, are frozen in time. There are also pictures from the gardens of Hyderabad, the misty eucalyptus groves of Ootacamund, the beaches of Mumbai and the sunsets of Goa. Palvai's personal favourite is the silhouette of a girl in a sun-drenched pond quenching her thirst with a stainless box, titled `It's My Mineral Water'.



It's my Horse

On till today at the A.P. Press Photo Gallery, Old Press Club, Basheerbagh, Palvai will soon be taking his exhibition to London. The exhibition, the first for the photographer, resonates a contemporary process, which establishes not merely the methodology of art photography but invites a sensitive viewing of the tribal environment.



My Mineral Water

The works speak volumes appealing at first to the psyche and then draw the viewer within to unravel the meaning behind the composition.

The pictures are a throwback to an almost forgotten and vanishing world, which we fail to observe in the unguarded moments of our fast paced lives. Above everything, they are reminders of our natural selves.

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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