© Mahesh Shantaram; Natoya, Jamaica / Manipal;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

Bold, Powerful and Evocative are words that best describe this collection of impactful photographs. Moved by the mob attack on a young Tanzanian girl in Bangalore in January 2016, and in an attempt to bring the stories and plight of Africans living in India to the conscious attention of the larger Indian public, acclaimed photographer Mahesh Shantaram has set out on an intimate photographic journey.

© Mahesh Shantaram; Abdul-Kareem, Nigeria / Jaipur;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

His series of portraits documenting the lives of African people in India, is part of an inspirational exhibition organized by Tasveer, titled ‘The African Portraits. Showcased in Bangalore from Aug 27-Sep 23, 2016, Artisera is delighted to bring glimpses of this remarkable photography exhibition to you. 

The Project

‘The African Portraits’ forces viewers to look beyond stereotypes and provides much needed acknowledgement to the racism faced by Africans in India. Emotionally resonant, each photograph in the series draws attention to the humanity and individual uniqueness of his subjects, often overshadowed by the ignorance and fear towards them.

© Mahesh Shantaram; Misana, Tanzania / Bangalore;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

© Mahesh Shantaram; Hamza & Shukura, Nigeria / Jaipur; 
Archival pigment print; 2016. Courtesy Tasveer

The portraits, mostly shot at night, reflect the photographer’s adeptness at capturing profound stillness and intimacy. Each photograph in the series is taken after Shantaram has spent considerable time with the subjects, truly capturing their emotions and reality.

© Mahesh Shantaram; Prosper, Tanzania / Bangalore;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

The project has taken Shantaram across the country, to Bangalore, Delhi, Manipal and Jaipur. The portraits in the series capture, in particular, the lives of African students in India, a group Shantaram chose to focus upon for its small number and high vulnerability in a society that holds deep prejudice against them.

The aesthetic yet political nature of this project has extended Shantaram’s role beyond that of an exceptional photographer, to that of an activist and blogger.

With each portrait playing a role in unravelling the complex web of experiences of Africans, ‘The African Portraits’ is indeed a true visual reckoning of this minority community in India.

© Mahesh Shantaram; Ameenou, Nigeria / Jaipur;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

© Mahesh Shantaram; Hafiz, Nigeria / Jaipur;
Archival pigment print; 2016, Courtesy Tasveer

About the Photographer

A photographer of urban reality, Mahesh Shantaram studied photography in Paris and returned to India to explore his interest in social systems, institutions and contemporary society, through his art. With ‘The African Portraits’, Shantaram has gone from being a subjective-documentary photographer to formal portraiture, for the first time.

(Photographer Mahesh Shantaram, third from right, at the Tasveer Gallery)