Gauri Gill (India): Balika Mela, Lunkaransar, 2003/2010
I have photographed in rural Rajasthan for twelve years now, in villages, homes and families that treated me as their own. Although I chose to work independently, over the years I developed a relationship with various NGOs (non governmental organisations), including Urmul Setu Sansthan, in Lunkaransar. They have a bare bones campus in what used to be a one-camel town, albeit one with a busy National Highway running through it: simple, white blocks laid out in sandy soil, one of them a guest house that I knew I could stay in whenever I passed through, and where I was asked to pay whatever I could afford at the particular time. The stark setting placed into relief the various individuals inhabiting the campus, drawn there either by a greater motivation or personal circumstance. We were all fugitives from the world at large, for varying lengths of time, along with our dreams and accompanying disenchantments; ideas, plans and schemes were constantly afoot. The overarching utopian idea at Urmul remained Gram Sewa, or ‘in the service of the village’.
As part of their various programs, Urmul would organize Balika Shivirs, or camps for girls, where in the course of six months, … read more