AMANI NASSER –
They’ve travelled through the most challenging of landscapes. From the deserts of Oman, this time they were off to the hills of Arunchal Pradesh of northeast India. It’s their passion for adventure, exploration and capturing human life in photograph that has driven them to go the unlikeliest of places.
Armed with their diverse skills in using the camera, they’ve climbed mountains before, traversed hills, crossed rivers to document raw, unfiltered often neglected way of life of people from remote places.
This time, Hamad al Ghanboosi, an International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) photographer, Ismail al Sinidi, Adam al Alwi, and Hussain al Amri, were focused on capturing people’s lives in Arunchal Pradesh, a mountainous area in the extreme northeastern part of India.
When translated, Arunchal Pradesh means Land of the Dawn (also Lit Mountains). As Encyclopædia Britannica encapsulated, the area is “bordered by the kingdom of Bhutan to the west, the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north, Myanmar (Burma) and the Indian state of Nagaland to the south and southeast, and the Indian state of Assam to the south and southwest. The capital is Itanagar.”
The team’s adventure began in Guwahati, the largest city of Assam and Northeastern India. In here, they captured the markets, temples and railway stations. Then they moved from Guwahati to Derang.
They across Camin river during their 8-hour journey. They would discover the primitive life of the four villages surrounding Derang including the Mobobaz tribes. They would photograph their way of life — simple as it is.
While going through this journey of discovery, the team cannot help but reflect on their own traditions, lifestyle, and habits. They were more fortunate to have seen development and advancement of civilisation.
Their trip towards Tawang City is a rough one. Located on the western side of Arnuchal Pradesh, the terrain was very tough as it’s all unpaved. It is here that some of the most dangerous bends in the world can be located. They would arrive in Sela gate, located 4000 meters above sea level.
Once they reached the city, the team headed to Tawang Temple, the second largest temple in the world.
“During our visit, the temple has about 300 monks on it. We captured their religious rituals,” Al Ghanboosi shared.
“Then we visited another temple which housed 50 female monks who were serving at the temple,” he added.
They’d eventually also visit the oldest bridge that connected two villages in Tawang. They would then move towards Bomdila — a town totally different than Tawang. The team noted that the building designs and even the lifestyle of people were different.
“We visited a red brick factory. There were around 50 women working on it. We captured their role in each process. We observed and studied how they prepared the bricks even to the point of the bricks being placed in the oven,” Al Ghanboosi said.
“We captured human life there. We even took photos of how schools were like, even infirmaries,” he added.
“This trip was my best. We were the first Arab photographers who visited Arnuchal Pradesh and Assam States,” Al Ghanboosi shared.
“Arnuchal Pradesh is at a very interesting location. It’s right at the crossroad where different cultures meet. The border of China and Bhutan gave it an advantage when it comes to the diversity of lifestyle and culture,” he added.
“The population’s features, traditions, and clothes were similar to the people of Tibet which I visited this year,” Al Ghanboosi noted.
“What is most memorable about this trip is that we transferred the people’s lives on photos and make it speak for them,” he said.
As for Al Amri, “I touched something unique. I saw something different. I am full of hope when visiting places like this. I can see how people struggle to survival. Yet I can also see their hope.”
“Hope is best seen when, after arriving at the top of the Tawang mountains, the children there were carrying their heavy school bags. It was a struggle but by carrying that heavy load, they were inching closer to reach their dreams,” Al Amri said.