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Essay On Life Of Adivasis Pictures

Jayamma Belliah, an Adivasi from Ananjihundi village in Karnataka, documents her life in a forest with a camera.

Jayamma Belliah. Credit: People’s Archive of Rural India

Jayamma Belliah, 35, is a Jenu Kuruba Adivasi from Ananjihundi village in Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka. What follows is her photo essay about life in a forest where both humans and animals have the potential to kill and also be killed, by one another. Over the course of six months, Jayamma took photographs of her daily life on the fringes of Bandipur National Park, one of India’s premiere tiger reserves. Her photo essay is part of a larger collaborative photography project about living with wildlife. This was the first time she learned to use a camera (a Fujifilm FinePix S8630).

Her photo essay highlights the usually invisible gendered dynamics embedded in human-wildlife relations. It implicitly questions prescriptive approaches to wildlife conservation that largely ignore the socio-economic realities of the rural poor. In addition to the photos presented here, Jayamma took many beautiful photographs of birds. “My family was surprised I could learn to take such good pictures,” she said, in Kannada.

Cows on the trench.  Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“These scrub cows [nondescript local cattle, seen mostly as dung producers] belong to my family, and my sister and sister-in-law are taking them to graze in the fields. We have to cross the [Bandipur] forest to reach our village. Two years ago, one of our calves was killed by a leopard inside the forest.”

Sheep going home. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“My sisters here are taking our sheep back home. My sister is also carrying firewood which she collected. Some of us got free LPG [cooking gas] from the government, but others didn’t take it. They thought that they would have to pay to get it, so that’s why they didn’t take it.”

Sheep going home. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“These goats also belong to my family. My brother, sister and sister-in-law take care of them. We have about 50 goats, and they graze in the forest. We get them back every day early in the evening, otherwise there are chances of them being killed by wild animals. In case we haven’t earned enough money or if something else happens, then we will sell one or two of these goats.”

Tiger’s pug mark. Credit:Jayamma Belliah

“I saw this pug mark one morning when I was going to work [as a domestic worker in nearby homes]. There are many tigers around here, they kill our cows and goats, they keep coming and going. People here say that there are more tigers now than leopards.”

Two girls. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“My nieces have to walk through the forest to reach their school; they walk three kilometres from our village everyday. My first niece completed her 8th standard, but there is no high school here, so she will have to go to one which is 10 ms from here. She will either stay at the hostel there or travel every day from here. Because she is leaving now, her younger sister has to go to school alone. She is scared of walking alone because of the forest animals, so sometimes she skips school. She might drop out. In my village, seven or eight children went to school and most of them dropped out. Only my nieces have gone up to this stage of schooling.”

The leopard tree. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“This is the kaaludaari [footpath] that passes through the forest. I walk to work every day this way, and my nieces walk to school along with me in the morning. Three months ago, an old woman went to graze her goats in the morning in the forest. Later, I was going back home after work when I saw many people had gathered at this tree. Her goats had all gone back home earlier, none of them were injured or attacked. So others went looking for her when she did not come home and found her lying near this tree. She wasn’t eaten by the animal, there were only two bite marks on either side of her forehead. I don’t know if it was a leopard or a tiger. After being taken to hospital, the woman died the next day. She was my aunt. I walk along the same route every day. We are frightened to walk, but we can’t do much about it. We can’t sit at home fearing this. We all sent a signed application for a bus facility for the school children, but nothing happened.”

The leopard. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“The leopard was sitting on the rock on the slope of the hill behind the place where I work. I was going back home in the evening when I spotted it. It was very close to me, maybe a distance of 4-5 metres. My husband had come to pick me up, so I wasn’t very scared. If the leopard comes close, we cannot do much. I took this photo because I wanted to take a picture of the leopard. I would have taken it even if my husband wasn’t there. I am scared of the leopards and tigers. When I took the picture, the leopard saw us and lowered its head slowly behind the rock.”

Machan. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

When people grow groundnuts, ragi and avarekaayi, they go to their farms by seven in the evening and stay there until six the next morning. They climb up the tree and guard their fields against animals the whole night with no sleep. They try to protect their crops from elephants and wild boars. When the animals come, they burst firecrackers. Sometimes they can’t do anything. They do this for six months during the harvest season, otherwise all is wasted.”

Dead vulture. Credit: Jayamma Belliah

“The vulture didn’t know about the live electrical wire and died after sitting on it. This was after a rain. What do these animals know about the current passing through these wires? It fell on the rojada gida (lantana camara) hedge below. There were many vultures earlier in this area, but now their numbers have reduced. Earlier there wasn’t as much lantana as there is now, but for the last 10 years it has been growing a lot, and nobody knows how it grew so quickly. There is not much use for it, but chairs can be made from the branches. Now it is growing even in the forest. It comes up where the grass grows and the grass is now becoming less. Because of this, the cows and goats have less to eat.”

This work was facilitated by Jared Margulies, in coordination with the Mariamma Charitable Trust located in Mangala village, Karnataka.

Jayamma Belliah is a Jenu Kuruba Adivasi who lives on the fringes of Bandipur National Park, one of India’s premier tiger reserves, and earns a living as a domestic worker.

This article originally appeared in the People’s Archive of Rural India on March 8, 2017.

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What to read next:

Categories: Culture, Featured, Photography, Women

Tagged as: adivasi, gender, International Women's Day, March 8, no-donate-link, photo essay, photography, photojournalism, women

Nagi Shiva, a domestic worker from Lokkere village, lets us into her remote world on the edge of Bandipur National Park in Karnataka.

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Nagi Shiva lives with her family in Lokkere village, on the edge of Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. She is from the Kuruba Gowda community, and works as a domestic helper.

Over the course of six months, she took photographs of her daily life – the trees, the fields and harvesting, the animals, her family – on the fringes of one of India’s premier tiger reserves in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka. This was the first time she learned to use a camera (a Fujifilm FinePix S8630). Her photo essay is part of a larger collaborative photography project about living with wildlife, and the second in a series of six on PARI. (The first essay in this series, When Jayamma spotted the leopard, was published on March 8, 2017.)

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

“I liked taking pictures of my people. Others should understand the problems we face and how we live here,” Nagi Shiva, 33, says. “I want to take more photos, but I don’t get much time. I want to take pictures of the cows going back home. Now it is all green after the rains. I like to take photos of sheep or goats grazing or birds drinking water in the lake.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Lonely tree: “This tree is called jagala ganti mara [fighting tree]. No one plants it in their house or fields because they believe that the tree will cause disputes at home. This has been its name for a long time. We don’t use it; we can only use the firewood from it.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

At work in the fields: “This is near my village, the women were harvesting beans. The people in this picture are all known to me. I took it around 7 a.m.; I went out just to take this photo. Women also go and work in the fields early in the morning, not just men. I used to work in the fields too, but now I have other employment. We all work very hard in the fields close to the forest.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Gavi Rudreshwara: “This is our landscape, we have hills and forests and we live here. This is the Gavi Rudhreshwara temple hill; it is beyond the trench of the tiger reserve. There is an idol inside the hill, and a cave that leads to the hilltop. No one can go inside it, but there is a small passage and there are snakes inside. There is a small shrine on the hilltop and we can walk up the hill. Elephants and tigers come near the hilltop, but we all have gone there. We can offer prayers there. This is near Lokkere, about a kilometre from my village.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Brother with bulls in front of the house: “This house belongs to a man called Reddy from Bangalore. We know him, his family has helped fund the school in the village. They provide scholarships and notebooks to school children. I used to work  in that house earlier as a housekeeper. In front of this house, my brother is bringing his bulls back to his own house. He grazes his cows in his field. These oxen belong to him. Now there are more of these big houses built by outsiders near our villages.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Bull: “This bull belongs to my brother. Cows help farmers a lot in agriculture. They also work hard in the fields, that is why we worship them. We call this bull Basava.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Woman carrying food: “This is my sister. She is taking food for her husband working in the fields in the morning.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Forest fire: “I don’t know who lit the fire in the forest. Somebody who went into the forest could have lit it, somebody must have left a matchstick when they smoked a beedi. Or it could have happened naturally, it is possible. Someone who grazes their cattle in forests or someone who went into the forest could have done it. This is near Lokkere, the forest department people are trying to put it out. They worked until 11 pm trying to put it out.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Peacock: “Our forest has so many beautiful birds and animals, like this beautiful peacock. I took this picture close to where I work. There is a hill and it was on the rock. It was standing very still and neatly.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Ploughing: “We work in the fields. We plough, sow and get the harvest. We live beside the forest, but we still farm. We grow ragijowar and onion. There isn’t much water here, and most people depend on the rains to feed their crops.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Sheep grazing: “We depend on the livestock, they are our livelihood. We graze them in the forest. People raise sheep and goats. We get wool. Sometimes we sell one or two goats or sheep to get some money. Many people in my village depend on this for an income. Everyone has about 50 sheep and goats. We have 25 goats, but we don’t have sheep. We don’t have a shepherd to graze them, my mother is too old to go out now. We can’t leave the sheep outside, we have to be there with them or they won’t come back, they could also be eaten. Goats will return even if they go missing. In this photo my nephew is grazing them. The sheep belong to my sister and the goats belong to me.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Lantana carving: “This is my brother in-law. He is working with the lantana. [The invasive flowering plant  Lantana camara has taken over large swathes of the landscape, especially inside the national park]. His name is Basava and he is physically handicapped. We have a self-help group with nine women and only one man in this group. Basava is the only man. We have named the group Lantana Sangham. We received training to prepare furniture and other items made of lantana. I was getting a daily wage of 150 rupees. This wasn’t profitable for the effort we put in. So I gave up and started doing household work instead.”

Credit: PARI/Nagi Shiva

Training: “This is my sister teaching lantana processing to the Jenu Kuruba Adivasi girls from Guddekere village. Men get the lantana from the forest and the women process it.”

This work was facilitated by Jared Margulies, in coordination with the Mariamma Charitable Trust, located in Mangala village, Karnataka. It was made possible with the support of a 2015-2016 Fulbright Nehru Student Research Grant, a Graduate Student Association Research Grant from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in-kind support from the Mariamma Charitable Trust, and above all, the participation, enthusiasm and efforts of the photographers themselves. B.R. Rajeev’s help in the translation of the text was invaluable, too. 

Nagi Shiva lives on the fringes of Bandipur National Park, one of India’s premier tiger reserves, and earns a living as a domestic worker.

This article was originally published in People’s Archive of Rural India.

Liked the story? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.

What to read next:

Categories: Culture, Featured, Heritage, Photography, Society

Tagged as: Bandipur National Park, Bandipur national park Karnataka, Karnataka, Karnataka forests, Lokkere village, Pari, Peoples rural archive of india

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