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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Photo exhibit offers cultural insight on India


Bold black and white eyes greet visitors of the Cushwa-Leighton Library. These eyes belong to the subjects of photographer Fazal Sheikh's "Ladli: Beloved Daughter" photo exhibit, which senior Chelsea Crane described as "moving."

"The exhibit opened my eyes to a culture with which I am unfamiliar," Crane said.

Associate professor of business and economics Ujvala Rajadhyaksha helped viewers become culturally aware was one of the prime goals of the exhibit.

"[The exhibit] attempts to raise consciousness about the plight of women and young girls in India who live on the margins of Indian society," Rajadhyaksha said.

These women have fought hardship in a culture that is predominantly male-oriented, and the exhibit was meant to share their experiences.

"It profiles women who have survived against all odds and documents their courage, resilience and will to survive in the face of government apathy and social problems such as female feticide, dowry deaths, rape and torture, child labor and prostitution," Rajadhyaksha said.

As visitors walk through the exhibit, they are meant to experience the lives of the Indian women who are the subjects of the exhibit. Baby Sanjeeta is one of these subjects.

Sanjeeta was left at an orphanage in hopes that someone would find and raise her. As the photo captions informed the visitors, the orphanage placed a woven wicker crib outside its facilities for parents to come and deposit their children, such as the unwanted Sanjeeta. This exhibit said this was a much better alternative than the typical action of leaving the infants in a dumpster. 

For senior Kate Kryk, the story of the subject Sonali was most memorable. In her picture, only Sonali's hands were seen. The captions said Sonali was left raped and bleeding by an unknown man who attacked her. According to the exhibit, when the stories found her, they contacted her family only to be told they had never heard of Sonali.

"Their parents disowned her and, in my opinion that is just ridiculous," Kryk said. "But, it's a different lifestyle there … one I have never considered."

The photos and their stories are meant to challenge viewers to face the reality that not all life stories have fairy tale endings. Kryk said this is not always a bad thing.

"These stories made me realize that in today's society in America, more people are concerned about what handbag they carry or what car they drive rather than the opportunities they have," Kryk said, "People are so materialistic. Not every country gives the opportunities that ours does."

Crane and Kryk said the stories that accompanied the photos were powerful, but it was the images that made them real. 

"Looking at their faces … [they] completely encompassed their stories," Kryk said.

Crane agreed saying the photographs gave the stories an element of reality. 

"The portraits give a personal element to the plight of Indian women," she said.

Rajadhyasksha said she hopes students experience other insights when they visit the exhibit. 

"This exhibit presents a contrasting image of India from the one that exists in the popular press of the country as an emerging market powerhouse," she said. 

The exhibit is open to the public and will run through October 15th during regular library hours. 

Kryk said she would strongly encourage students and other community members to visit the exhibit.

"I would definitely encourage more people to attend the exhibit," she said. "It makes you realize that your bad day — maybe you got a bad grade on a test or something — isn't as bad as someone else's bad day. It makes you put things in perspective."