The Van Gujjars are an indigenous, forest dwelling, nomadic, buffalo herding community residing in northern India. In January 2008, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was passed in the Indian Parliament. The first comprehensive indigenous rights law ever approved in India, this legislation gives indigenous groups the power to legally lay claim to their traditional homelands. Navigating to secure their forest rights, complicated by their multi-state migration and their minority status as Muslims, the Van Gujjar community is divided as to whether they should cease their migration and relocate to government built settlement colonies or pursue a claim to their ancestral homelands. Inspired by this indigenous struggle, Ben Lenzner traveled to India in the spring of 2008. Ben spent three months researching, photographing and documenting, as well as implementing a photography project with the Van Gujjar community. He distributed 60 cameras to men, women and children throughout the forests and in the Gindikhatta Settlement Colony. These new photography students explored places, people, situations and moments that were important to them. This project is critical. Please come out to support this project and learn a little more about tribal rights in India. These images share an intimate view into the diversity of Islam and the complexities of the struggles of one indigenous community. As globalization brings wealth to unknown pockets of the earth, cultures and traditions shift and disappear as rapidly as the Himalayan glaciers around them.
Please join us for an evening of photographs (exhibition, slideshow & presentation), discussion, Q&A, music, mingling, & fresh air in the backyard.