Millennium Post

Shyamal Datta's surreal landscapes

The artist is currently working on several photo documentation assignments focusing on critically threatened wildlife species of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and indigenous cultures of North East India.

"Fire to Fire, from dawn to dusk" – North East's vanishing way of life by Shyamal Datta is about the surreal sunsets and misty mornings, and a glimpse of the tribal communities who celebrate their simplicity and their traditions.

The Naga tribe in the interiors and the singular figure on the ledge of a rock watching the sunset are stunning images that celebrate the indigenous insignia of India's tribes

Datta has a way with landscapes, he is able to capture the burnt Sienna shades and shadows of the setting sun as well as the darkness within that is laced with light.

Datta says: "My first encounter with tribal communities of the mountains of the North East was in the early sixties at the age of six, when my father was driving us from Digboi to Duliajan – both oil towns. He was driving his vintage black 1950 English Morris Minor through the thick forests of upper Assam – teeming in wildlife – with headlamps on in broad daylight. At first, I thought it was eerie because I had a premonition that we were being watched. On turning right towards the forest, I saw a row of bare- bodied warrior tribesmen with spears and shotguns watching us impassively. It sent a shiver down my spine. That was 1961."

The show presents a bewildering and astonishing picture of anthropological diversity, unique on the planet. Datta wants to correct the lack of awareness and misunderstanding about the people and culture of the North East in the rest of India.

Talking about the exhibition, he said, "This photo curation is a sampling of an expression of my passion for the region where I was born; its people, their culture, its exquisite natural beauty, its magnificent flora and fauna."

"It is also an attempt to visually record a fascinatingly unique way of the tribal life for posterity – a way that is confronting the contradiction of modernity," he added.

Datta has won numerous awards. In 2008, he was a semifinalist in the BBC World Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. In 2009 Shyamal undertook a 15-day sailing expedition circling the Galapagos Islands in Equador in the Pacific Ocean

His works have been published in national and international publications including news media. He has presented audiovisual shows of his works in the USA, Canada, UK and India.

The light falling on the mane of the langur is a statement in the beauty of India's wildlife that alas has not been documented and researched and protected.

The falling of light to illumine the creature and the capturing of the expression are what stand apart.

In 2014, this image of the Golden Langur, a vulnerable species, found only in Assam and Bhutan was awarded and exhibited in the London School of Liberal Arts.

In 2016 his images were awarded in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asia competition.

Shyamal Datta is permanently based in Shillong, Meghalaya, where he is actively engaged with one of India's premier biodiversity and wildlife conservation NGO.

He is currently working on several photo documentation assignments focusing on critically threatened wildlife species of the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot and indigenous cultures of North East India.

The show becomes important for all shutterbugs to understand and explore the many facets of light that range in inclinations and refractive indices from dusk to dawn.

Indeed the landscapes in the show are a fine blend of the paradisal perfection that exists in the North Eastern wilderness untouched by the ugly hands of tourism and exploitation of commerce. The show runs from September 12 to 21 at India International Centre.

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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