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Join SAI for 2 events on Nov. 4 and 5, and photo exhibition, with Indian photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew, who will be at Harvard as part of SAI’s Arts Initiative, which connects with artists who use art as a medium to communicate intractable social issues that impact South Asia.

In early 1983, Pablo Bartholomew, then in his late twenties, went on assignment for Time to cover the terrible Nellie massacre in Assam, which was one of the worst ethnic clashes between the tribal people and alleged settlers from Bangladesh. Since then he has returned frequently to this region. From 1989 he traveled through the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur that border upper Burma (Myanmar).

His journeys through the deepest recesses of the region’s terrain were not spurred by wanderlust or sheer curiosity. They were, simply, and yet, profoundly, part of his quest to understand the diversity of the people who inhabit the hills and valleys whose histories were so vastly differently from the Indian mainland, and a gesture of appreciation, particularly to the Naga hill tribes whose generosity his father, Richard Bartholomew, had experienced first-hand when, as a young boy, he had to trek with his family of Burmese refugees into India. Bartholomew’s intimate engagement with the Northeast continued for ten years, despite his frenetic career as a photojournalist.

Coded Elegance constitutes a mere fragment of Bartholomew’s extensive visual anthropological documentation of the various tribes and people residing in the low Himalayan hills and valleys of Northeast India — a people whose lives are marked by tradition and transition. The series, an off shoot of Marked with Beauty, his 2000 exhibition of rich, color photographs of the many Naga tribes, is influenced by his own collection of portraits of the Darjeeling hill tribes by Johnston and Hoffman, and Irving Penn’s body of work in Papua New Guinea.

It explores his journey and interaction with tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland — diverse communities with myriad different languages and dialects — as well as the people inhabiting the valleys in that region. The preservation of their traditional cultures articulated through their dress, rituals, and rites of passage, forms the overarching subject of Coded Elegance.

“This spectacular coded sense of dress, which incorporates self-woven fabric, headdresses adorned with animal parts, jewelry made from beads, brass, and silver ornaments, markings on the body and face tattoos, is a function of their traditions and it often makes contemporary fashion seem banal, flippant, and pedestrian,” says Bartholomew.

“Going beyond the vivid colors and graphic beauty of the textiles used, and the accompanying ornamentation, there exists an unwritten code; a visual language that governed who could wear what, when, and what it signified. This attire, derived from animist and shaman practices, comes from the deep relationship these tribes and people of the valley share with the lands and environments they inhabit. Their rites and rituals are a celebration of an amazing, yet nuanced, grace and sophistication.”

Bartholomew is known for his early black-and-white photography that formed the corpus of three separate series, Outside In:  A Tale of Three Cities, Chronicles of a Past Life, and, more recently, The Calcutta Diaries. Coded Elegance showcases the photographer’s nuanced understanding of and skill with color photography, and is a tribute to the medium.

Upcoming events with Pablo Bartholomew:

Coded ElegancePhotographs of the tribes and people of India’s Northeast region
Art Exhibit
As part of his continuing engagement with his immense archive, award-winning photographer Pablo Bartholomew will exhibit a series of ethno-anthropological photographs of tribes and people of the hills and valleys of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur, taken from 1989 to 2000, exploring vanishing cultural practices, animist and shaman rituals, and showcasing a portrait of the diversity of the various tribal and other cultures that dominate the region.
On display from Nov. 5, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015, CGIS South Concourse, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
Open Monday-Thursday 7am-9pm; Fridays 7am-7pm


Anatomy of a Man-Made Disaster: Thirty Years Later, Remembering the Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Arts Seminar
Pablo BartholomewPhotojournalist
Discussant: Bridget Corbett HannaPost-Doc, Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University
Chair: Ajantha Subramanian, Professor, Social Anthropology Program, Harvard University
In December 1984, a gas leak at the Union Carbide Factory, now owned by Dow Chemicals, caused the death of thousands of inhabitants of Bhopal and incapacitated the living who have yet to be fully compensated. Photographer Pablo Bartholomew, then aged 29, who arrived at the scene recounts his experiences of what it was like covering the disaster and its aftermath
Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, 12:00pm – 01:30pm, CGIS South S030, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA


A Personalized History of Indian Photography, 1880 to 2010
Arts Lecture
Opening Reception of photo exhibit ‘Coded Elegance’
Pablo BartholomewPhotojournalist

Photographer Pablo Bartholomew, whose career spans over 40 years, introspects on his personal collection of historical photographs as well as works by other photographers from the pre and post-Independence era, rounding off by elaborating on contemporary practices. This visual walkthrough consists of photographic work that has marked and influenced him.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 5:15pm – 06:30pm, CGIS South S030, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
Reception to follow.

Photos: Pablo Bartholomew. All rights reserved: email or contact by phone +91 98100 14131.