Author: Taha Ahmad(1994, Delhi, India)
Gallery: EPEKA, Koroška 8,
Production: Fotoklub Maribor
He was born in Lucknow, in 1994. He developed an interest in Documentary photography while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. He previously, has been teaching at the Delhi School of Photography and The Thinking Eye Institute of Photography, India. Currently, Taha Ahmad is practicing as an indigenous photographer working in his own backyard covering issues related to his community, people and his very own memories.His photographs are framed in a way that preserves their reality, which he feels is undergoing an everlasting change.
His work has been a part of the initiative and exhibition ‘Photography on a Postcard’ organized by the Print Space Gallery, London, UK. He has also received a Nominee Award (Category - Photojournalism) at the second edition of the International Photography Grant 2017, London, UK and has been the finalist for the Lucie Scholarship US. He has been the recipient of The Documentary Project Fund/Award 2018, Toto-Tasveer Award for Photography 2018, Sahapedia Frames Photography Grant 2018 and the Neel Dongre Grant/Award for Excellence in Photography 2016-17. He has worked with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). His work has been published by magazines as Invisible Photographer Asia, The Sunday Guardian, Times Of India, MUSÉE Magazine, Better Photography Magazine and many others as well he has presented his photos many times at solo and group exhibitions.
A Displaced Hope
Genies are powerful supernatural creatures created out of fire, according to the Islamic texts.
I was born and raised in Indian city of Lucknow, where the existence of supernatural powers of the genies is a common belief.
Superstition and Firoz Shah Kotla have always run parallel to each other. The Kotla fortress built in the Indian capital in the 18th century by then king Feroz Shah Tughlaq, remains a ruin nestling between a cricket stadium and the city’s ring road. It is within these ruins that we find the heart of genie worship.
Thousands of people from all walks of life gather here every Thursday; praying, writing letters, pasting coins and lighting candles and lamps to impress the genies for a better life. In the alcoves of the fortress’s stone walls people can be seen inking and pasting letters, photocopies of their personal documents with passport size photographs hoping to resolve their problems with the blessings of the genies.
A middle-aged woman, I encountered during one of my visits, asserted that the only reason her loved ones are “hail and hearty” is because she has regularly visited the fort every Thursday for the last 20 years.
A society which is completely ostracised due to political negligence, religious differences, unawareness and lack of justice has become just a money-making mechanism for the self-proclaimed Godmen in the fort to exploit the misfortunes of the people. People bring in money, which is swept out in the name of superstition. People visiting these places do not have the tools of education to question these practices, indestructible devotion and their ignorant behaviour.
The ending of a Thursday in Kotla is rather ironic. The letters and money left by the devotees are ruthlessly removed by the clerics working at the fort. The money is divided amongst the clerics and the handwritten letters with the people’s hope for a better life end in the garbage.
Through this project, I aim to explore what I was taught while growing up and how it contradicts what is being practiced at Kotla and bring attention to the injustice done to devotees.
It is a personal journal, a journey into the nostalgic space of my childhood lapsing into history challenging the contemporary belief in the doctrines of a religion.
The project is a visual ode to a mystical force that compels me to divulge reality and embrace superstition. It is an ardent longing to hold onto my culture, folklore, upbringing and amalgamate my perception towards modern world in spite of history and excessively credulous belief. Using my own personal experiences, and family traditions, the project explores the alteration of my idealised memories from the modern scenario of erratic disbelief and the long standing shibboleth.
The project has been the recipient of The Documentary Project Fund 2018.