In my portfolio piece on Ganesh Chaturthi, I talk about the excitement and joy that I was able to experience as a photographer documenting the ten-day celebration in Mumbai. There is a rush of culture, of pleasure, a release at the end of the monsoon season.
It would be fair to say that India is a global leader in celebrations and travelling to this place to take photos turned into a chance for me to celebrate along with it.
To stand in these waters is to see through them. To see the discarded remains of a god meant to keep the innocence and beauty of the world safe. Metal skeletons, plaster, clay and ceramics drift along the sea bed, adding to the strain placed upon India’s coast by an outdated sewage network.
It is hard to be a British photographer in India and not see my own society’s hand in this situation. In 1947 we ended our colonial rule in India overnight, leaving no structure, no system in place with which to handle human needs. The tide of this action is still in Mumbai’s streets.
Ironically, Ganesh Chaturthi is a celebration fabricated by Mumbaikars during colonialism. It was illegal under British rule for Indian’s to gather in crowds or groups. Bypassing this, Indian “rebels” invented a ten-day celebration that would allow them to meet in public and in the privacy of homes and temples.
Throughout Mumbai, life thrives and hums. It is a warm city least of all for the climate but the constant interaction between diverse inner cultures and day to day reality. During the Hindu celebrations, a quieter holy day sets in motion. The last day of Eid al Adha this year (2017) took place on 4th September. Many families ritually slaughter goats whom they brought into their home some days earlier. This is to signify when God prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son, instructing him to sacrifice an animal instead.
Muslim’s make a close connection to the goat, creating a more significant sacrifice when the time comes. The meat is then shared in a celebration of giving to the community.
Neither celebration exists in a vacuum. Although they both infringe harm on the natural world, there is still social effect which deserves our attention and thought, Only by seeing and accepting these benefits of community-driven connections can cultures (includes the West) hope to move forward.