'Asians need to de-colonise'

Celebrated Filipino documentary photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani has travelled to more than 18 states in the United States of America and several cities in Asian countries including India

Celebrated Filipino documentary photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani, who has been travelling to several Asian cities to capture the lives of migrant domestic workers, says that Asians are quite influenced by the colonial culture, and to find their voice and reclaim their space, they need to de-colonise their minds.

"I think it is important to de-colonise our minds to find our voice in the cultural space. We Asians are highly influenced by western culture and that should be stopped. We have to reclaim our space and tell our own stories to find our voice," said Xyza.

The photographer has travelled to more than 18 states in the United States of America and several cities in Asian countries including India.

She was in Bhutan to attend the Mountain Echoes 2019 festival and talked about her new book titled 'We Are Like Air'. The book shares the story of her personal journey from a 19-year-old domestic help to a celebrated photographer, who in 2016 became a recipient of grants from Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Mountain Echoes is a festival of arts, literature, and culture that completed a decade this year is organised by India Bhutan Foundation and graced by The Royal patron Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

Xyza found Bhutan to be very peaceful and seemed impressed by its happy people.

"I also liked their traditional dress and food," she shared.

Asked about when and how she discovered photography, Xyza said: "I felt it when I shared my holiday pictures with my mother. I became the eye for her to view the world because all her life she just worked and never got a chance to travel the world. From there I started photographing street people, labourers and domestic workers – a world I knew. I started telling their stories and they got a chance to share their lives through my pictures," she shared.

Being a photographer who creates awareness on labour migration and human rights, what does she have to say of the ongoing global conversation on gender equality and changing social scenario of women?

"I think people are more careful with their words and thoughts when it comes to stereotyping women now. That is surely happening because of the constant conversation that is taking places, though not really a lot of action. There is still a lot that is needed to be done. There is casual sexism in the way we talk to women and treat them, and it will not go away overnight," she said.

"Pay parity is there in the professional world based on gender. It is among things that should be brought into notice," she added.

Her book shares the story of her mother who was also a migrant domestic help. It left an impact on their relationship.

"The book healed me, and I built a stronger bond with my mother. I rebuilt a good relationship with my parents and family that was otherwise going away. Sometimes, we do not communicate with our parents to let them know how much we love them. Through this book, I conveyed my emotions better," she revealed.

Did she ever faced negative attitude from the elite class because of her original financial background?

"I did get that 'look' from those people who are not so kind, but you see I am so lucky get the opportunity that I have got, coming from that background. I really do not bother by those un-kind people because there are thousands out there who draw inspiration from my journey," Xyza replied.

Success, however, has not changed equations at home. "My mother still asks me to go to the grocer's to buy stuff. We are as basic as that," she said.

What change did money bring in her life? "(It has brought) comfort. Now I can travel comfortably to many parts of the world because of my profession. I can also take my father along whenever possible because he loves travelling. I can give my parents a lifestyle that they deserve because they really worked hard to survive poverty," she concluded.

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