“The African Portraits”, Mahesh Shantaram’s most recent body of work, documents the lives of African students living in India in a series of intimate portraits. Following an increasing number of racial attacks in India in the recent past, and particularly spurred by the shocking attack of a young Tanzanian woman by a mob in January 2016 in Bangalore, Mahesh Shantaram set out on a project to increase awareness of the everyday racism and discrimination faced by Africans in India.
With this project, Shantaram, a subjective-documentary photographer turns to formal portraiture for the first time. Beginning with Bangalore, he has travelled to Jaipur, Delhi and Manipal to record the experiences of African students in India. Shantaram chooses to particularly focus on students, as they are an extremely small and vulnerable group; having nowhere to go to seek redressal for their injustices in a society that is so prejudiced against them.
His emotionally resonant portraits force viewers to look beyond stereotypes— attempting to bring the stories and lives of African students to the conscious attention of the larger Indian public. Drawing attention to the individuality and humanity of his subjects, these photographs highlight the necessity of acknowledging and addressing the racism they face—and point towards the plurality of Africans, who hail from several different countries and societies and are yet nevertheless, unfairly and ignorantly branded in India by their continent of origin and colour of skin.
- Mahesh Shantaram, Vitu, Malawi/Bangalore, Archival pigment print, 2016
- Mahesh Shantaram, Natoya, Jamaica/Manipal, Archival pigment print, 2016
- Mahesh Shantaram, Abdul-Kareem, Nigeria/Jaipur, Archival pigment print, 2016
- Mahesh Shantaram, Ameenou, Nigeria/Jaipur, Archival pigment print, 2016