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Visual Documentary on Women’s Lives

For some people it might be for fashion or style but for some it says the history as it documents the past. Photos are very much important, as they are part of documentation process. ‘Re-presenting Indian Women 1875-1947: A Visual Documentary’ was organized by Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi in association with Guwahati based North East Network at the Sankardeva Kalakhetra from 22nd to 24th February. Based on more than 300 archival photographs, the display was divided into five sections depicting women’s lives during the period of 1875 to 1947. The aims of the display were to provide a visual dimension to text based knowledge, encourage educational experience and to demonstrate the importance and value of documenting and preserving material. The sections displayed visualizing the family to some of the events associated with the national movement.

The display showed some of the earliest photographs of women and girls in the family context. The display also highlighted photos associated with the education of girls when the western style schooling came to the country in the early decades of the 19th century. It is to be mentioned that in the 20th century, the coming of the box camera helped in framing photos and in that period when women become doctor or lawyers, all these have been reflected in the visual documentary. The visual in the national movement section document much of the women’s emergence as active political beings in a critical phase of the country’s evolution.

It was interesting to see some of the photos taken by King Birchandra of Tripura but this visual documentary which has been held in different cities of country did not display anything or any picture related to present day Assam. There has been a photo which showed Naga women at work and a photo of the first Mizo lady doctor. There are some photos related to the family members of King Birchandra who also introduced one of wife into photography. The display reflected women different parts of country but very less from the north east. It is important that in this digital age the region should not be missed out from documentation. More of this kind of visual documentary are needed as it helps people in understanding the past in simple way.

Ranjan K Baruah, Guwahati
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Citizen Journalist and activist.

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