Through Her Lens
Memory & Migration

Memory & Migration was a public photography exhibition showcasing works by women artists from Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills. The exhibition is the first project under Through Her Lens and was held in Namchi, Sikkim between
9 and 16 February 2020.

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Anweshna Gurung
Sonada

Anweshna is currently pursuing a PhD from Banaras Hindu University. Her academic interest lies in the subjects of Indian philosophy and religion. Through her research topic, Ecotheology in the Eastern Himalayas, she is exploring the various religions among different ethnic groups and cultures in the Himalayan region, their relationship with nature and the environment and how the established religions of the world, science and modernism have affected these traditional religions, leading to their dissolution. The study also looks at how these religions can make positive contributions to technology, mass culture and climate change

I took this photograph about four years ago when my dear grandmother was still alive. It was a grey monsoon morning and grandma was complaining that she hasn’t seen the sun in days and the cold weather was making her body ache. As I came closer to talk to her I noticed her elegant grey locks. They looked beautiful under the faint daylight.

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Ambika Rai
Darjeeling

Ambika is a PhD scholar at the Centre for Himalayan Studies, University of North Bengal. Her current research is based on the bharia women of Nepal who’ve migrated to Darjeeling Hills in search of better economic prospects. 

These photographs are of the people locally known as bharias, coolies or pahareys. Most of the bharias have migrated from the rural areas of Nepal and in Darjeeling Hills, they remain at the fringes of the urban space, often ignored in the mainstream political, social, economic and literary discourses of the region. The bharias, however, encompass the very nature of the fluid human movement and migration in the Himalayan region.


Although male porters also exist among the bharia community in the region, I’ve chosen to focus on the female porters because gender is a very relevant dimension in all of the migration flows. Migration has always been studied through a gendered lens, predominantly focussing on the migration of men than women. Women were only considered as someone who would travel with their husband at a specific destination, where she would cook and take care of the husband and children. However, in the last few decades, there has been a major shift giving rise to a feminisation of migrant labourers. This is a result of women partaking in the labour process.

Bhawana Sharma
Pakyong

Bhawana is pursuing her graduation in Nepali from Nar Bahadur Bhandari Degree College, Tadong, She wants to take up photography as a career. 

Image I

Migration can open up new opportunities for employment, but it can also force people into unequal and exploitative work regimes.

Image II and III

Recreating memories of childhood.

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Chandni Ansari
Darjeeling

Chandni is an aspiring photographer. Her images often portray the various characters of her hometown Darjeeling

Das Studio, a repository of Darjeeling’s visual history.

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Deepika Rai
Darjeeling

Deepika is an entrepreneur who enjoys taking photographs in her leisure time. She has been working in Siliguri since the past five years.

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Indra Rai
Namchi

Indra started practising photography by taking pictures of her family, especially her three children, trying to retain the memories of their childhood. 

One of the best parts of my job was to go on school visits and interact with the young students. Their energy and enthusiasm were infectious, in turn giving me the drive to work harder. This short photo series is my way of remembering those children.

Komal Chamling
Namchi

Komal is interested in photography as a medium to capture, to commemorate and to tell stories but is just beginning to delve into the practice.

Objects and the memories they carry 

 

Through these photographs, I am exploring the idea of objects as carriers of memory. Objects are marked by the imprints of where they have been, what purpose they have served, to whom they may have belonged and how the passage of time has treated them. Walking the streets of Kathmandu, I took pictures of these objects as I found them, still in their own spaces where their once-owners may have left them or where they may have found themselves after being thrown away. Reflecting on the photographs, I saw I was primarily drawn to discarded objects. I connected with the tragic beauty and melancholic quietness of the objects which may once have been dearly loved but now serve as mute symbols of memory. In their solitude, the objects give testimony to the times and the events they have weathered.

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Meena Ongmu Bhutia
Gangtok

Meena is a retired Under Secretary of Planning Department, Government of Sikkim. Her interest in photography began after her retirement in 2017. She loves to travel and take pictures.

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Moumita Chakraborty
Gangtok

Moumita is currently doing her doctoral research on Sikkim’s state animal red panda (Endangered-IUCN Red List Category). She was recently selected as the National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow to conserve the red panda and their prior habitats in Sikkim. She hopes that her participation in Through Her Lens will also support the conservation of our state animal.

Image I

The elusive red panda, sneaking from the wilderness of Singalila National Park. Habitat fragmentation and degradation are the primary reasons for the depletion of red panda population.

Image II

Memories of Lachen

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Nawami Gurung
Darjeeling

Nawami is an aspiring photographer from Darjeeling currently pursuing Mass Communication and Journalism from St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling.

Sometimes I want to be like her

At times I imagine if she was around,

What would the world be but peacefully sound,

She lives still, of this if you doubt,

Look at me,

She is me and I am her

This work is about the memory of my mother which is limited but my love for her quite the opposite. I collected her belongings as I grew up as a sign of her love and resemblance and this an attempt to explore that journey.

 

Nikita Adhikari
Darjeeling 

Nikita loves to capture people and moments. She takes all her photographs from her mobile phone.

Image I and III

Migrant labourers from rural areas of Nepal have always turned to Darjeeling in search of economic prospects.

Image III and IV

These places evoke the nostalgia of my growing-up years. 

 

Nikita Chhetri
Darjeeling

Nikita is an amateur photographer with an interest in nature, landscape and portrait genres. She has been featured in Darjeeling Photography Club’s Annual Exhibition 2017. She is a teacher by profession and volunteers as a photographer for her school’s events and annual functions to keep her passion alive. 

Teesta Barrage, Gajaldoba

Teesta Barrage, Gajaldoba is a new tourist hub in West Bengal. The construction of Teesta Barrage is said to cause water security issues in neighbouring north-west Bangladesh affecting environment and habitat, which in turn leads to internal displacements. We often ignore the long-term consequences of such constructions and the lives they harm. 

Juhu Beach, Mumbai

People often forget to appreciate the small moments in life, like this beautiful sunset at Juhu Beach. 

 

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Nisha Chhetri
Kalimpong

Nisha is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts  degree in English from Bhawanipur Education Society College in Kolkata. She is an aspiring photographer and storyteller. 

Image I and II

Environmental migration is a pressing global challenge, and yet we continue to blur the issue even though time is running out. (Pic 1 and 2)  

Prashanti Pradhan
Namchi

Prashanti (Nik Prash) has a passion for music, photography, creativity and mountains.She is always keen on learning new things and exploring new places. Through her lens, she wants to share stories of the Himalayas and its indigenous people with the outside world. 

Sacred Kisong

This was captured in Kisong, Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim. I was there for an educational purpose and Anum Chozen (in picture) was assisting me during the trip. He recited an old tale which spoke about angels visiting Kisong and sowing paddy amidst the lake. Those plants can, it seems, can still be found today, growing in the adverse climatic conditions at an altitude of 4200 metres. Anum also spoke about the Yeti, whom his forefathers had spotted strolling among the rhododendron scrubs and bushes along the way to Dikithang. Anum had his basket filled with junipers, some of which he burnt as an offering to the creator for good health and fair weather conditions ahead.

 

Dzuluk

This image was captured in Dzuluk, East Sikkim. It was early morning when we started from Gangtok and as we started moving up from Rongli, the air gradually grew colder and roads narrower with several twists and turns. Rhododendrons bloomed in red, pink and white along the roadside. As soon as we saw a busy little canteen, we got off our car and ordered tea to quench our thirst and beat the chilly air.

Puja Tamang
Lebong

An intern at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Puja started photography as an ornithologist. She has now started experimenting with different genres.    

Sel Roti

The humble sel roti embodies the material and symbolic realities of Nepali cultural identity. 

 

Spirituality

Religion and spirituality represent a collective memory based on the sanctity of tradition. 

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Ridhika Basnet
Darjeeling

Ridhika is a student of St. Teresa’s Girls H.S School, Darjeeling. She is a self-taught photographer and has been practising since the past two years. She is mostly into portraits. Besides photography, she likes to read books and write poetry. She wants to study cinematography in the future.

We’re constantly drifting to different phases of life carrying memories of the past along with us. A bird leaves behind a seemingly insignificant feather when it flies towards warmer weather, but little does it know that what it has actually left is a trace of memory in a place that was once its home. 

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Rosemita Rai 
Pakyong

Rosemita is a second year Bachelor of Commerce student at Sikkim Government College, Burtuk. She is interested in photographing people and nature and wants to pursue photography as a profession. 

My two-year-old nephew Nawhong is my creative inspiration at the moment. I use photography to represent and preserve his all too fleeting childhood. 

Roshmi Tamang 
Namchi

Roshmi is a certified yoga practitioner and practises photography in her free time. She also finds inspiration in reading, hiking and travelling. 

Aisalo
These berries have not only been consumed by locals as delicious nibbles but have also been valued for its medicinal benefits. 

Roshni Subba

Darjeeling

Roshni has collated a series of photographs and numerous stories from her travels. She is quick to make conversations with the locals, even if it’s something as simple as asking how their day has been going. Every photograph for her is a reminder of those stories, conversations, and experiences. She ends up sharing these memories with her students. Roshni is a lecturer at the University of Calcutta.

Image I 

They pulled back their nets. It took almost eight of them to finally bring the net on to the shore and in approximately 10 minutes. I waited anxiously to see their catch, curious to know the different types of fish I would get to see. But, disappointingly, only a few small ones were entangled in the net. They quickly picked those and headed towards the market. The only fish that was left behind was a pufferfish. In an attempt to save it, a person picked it up and tossed it back into the sea.

 

Image II

I saw her sitting under an umbrella on a sunny afternoon with no one else around. I called her and she turned. It was difficult to tell her age. She looked thin and short, “Hardly 15,” I thought to myself. But, at the same time, her face was marred with lines and freckles, she could perhaps even be 30. 

 

“What are you here for?” I asked. “I’m here to guard my cattle against the wild animals,” she said. 

 

Her cattle were grazing on the other hillock. I couldn’t see them properly even with my glasses on. 

 

“What kind of wild animals come here? And what will you do if you see one?”

 

“Bears, elephants, and tigers.,” she said with pride. “I will throw a big stone and chase the animals away if they’re around my herd.”

 

I teased her, “ You will run for your life if you see all these animals.” She smiled and hid her face with the umbrella. 

Image III

What do you see on this door? A Nepali calendar, a clothes hanger, dried marigold flowers, house number plate with ‘Small family, healthy family’ written on it, snakeskin and a long creeper. When asked, the lady of the house informed me that her husband had found the creeper in the forest and brought it home. She is proud of being the only person in the village to have such a long creeper. She believes it fetches good luck. All that she had hung above the entrance would bring her family good fortune.Yes, the snakeskin too.

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Rubi Newar

Darjeeling

Rubi completed her graduation taking history as a major subject from Salesian College Sonada. She is now working in Namchi as a teacher at Udichi Elementary School. She tries to capture the beauty of the places she visits on her travels.

The trek to Sandakphu and the million memories it holds. 

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Sanila Tamang

Namchi

Sanila is working as a freelance clinical dietitian and simultaneously pursuing an MPhil from SRM University, Gangtok. She has only recently started learning about photography.

Sheela Bantawa Rai

Samdong, Sikkim

Sheela’s first encounter with photographs was the black and white prints that her father had taken during his travels. These images continue to fascinate her even today. She started photography when she was still in school and uses it as a medium of self-expression. Sheela has won several photography contests and is interested in nature, documentary and fashion photography.

Image I 

The lines on these hands are the guardians of countless memories. 

 

Image II

We are in a state of constant flow. 

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Sradha Tamang

Kalimpong

Sradha is a photographer from Kalimpong. She is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Mass Communication and Journalism from Salesian College, Siliguri. Photography acts as a tool for her to visually represent what she feels within. Her inspiration for making images comes from her imagination as she considers photography a way to escape from reality.

Aama has always been the backbone of my life. But lately we’ve been disconnected and emotionally withdrawn due to a lot of reasons. Through this work I am putting an effort to bring back the beautiful bond I had with my Aama.

Sristi Sharma

Gangtok

Sristi is a professional motion graphics designer, video editor and director and an amateur photographer and visual artist. She draws inspiration from the world around her and believes the power behind an image comes from the delicate play between light, space and emotion. 

Image I

Memories of a person that I used to be.

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Yogita R Tamang

Darjeeling

Yogita has completed her masters degree in Mass Communication from Jamia Milia Islamia. She has worked as a creative director in television, advertising and travel companies including Homeshop18, Matchbox Pvt Ltd, Tathagata Journeys, Delhi. After her first solo photography exhibition at Rachna Books, Gangtok in 2012 she entered into the professional field of photography. She has worked in her capacity as a Photography Instructor and Photography Course Designer at Jewellery Design and Technology Institute, Noida. Currently, she is the director of her photography company Imaginative Art Photo in Siliguri/Darjeeling which specialises in child, family and wedding fine art portraits. She was one of the youngest female photographers in the Hills when she started and now she is one of the few photographers in India specialising in fine art portraits. 

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