The tribal people of Bangladesh

The tribes I visited, documented and photographed are: Tripuri, Garo, Khasi, Manipuri, Mros, Bawm, Marma and Condro. 

The population of Bangladesh is relatively homogeneous and consists of around 98% ethnic Bengalis. The other 2 % belong to different tribal groups and communities, which live mostly in the hilly regions of Chitaggong Hill Tracts, Mymensingh, Sylhet and Rajshahi. The major part of the tribes descends from Tibet Berman ethnic group with pronounced Mongol lineaments. It speaks specific languages and dialects of the same group and has its own specific and strict social organization. Their bamboo houses are unique of their kind and rise to about 2 to 3 meters above the ground in order to protect from floods and wildlife.

I’m interested from long time in ethnic groups, minorities, small groups of people, isolated communities and I feel great pleasure to communicate with such people, to hear their stories, to observe their habits and to enjoy their authentic art. I had the chance, together with the precious help of my guide Eusuf, to visit 8 tribal communities in Bangladesh, to communicate with people there and to shoot some of the important moments of their daily live. This chapter of the book contains only some basic information and data about the tribal groups and the information is provided by The International Mission Board – Global Research, Month 20XX, I would like to point out that this article doesn’t have ambition to make visual and anthropological or ethnical research of tribes, but rather aims to illustrate and promote the beauty through photographs, the authenticity and uniqueness of these cultures.

The visited and documented tribes are: Tripuri, Garo, Khasi, Manipuri, Mros, Bawm, Marma and Condro (for this group I didn’t find any information, so therefore the pictures are the only thing I could offer here). I endeavoured to visit several villages of any tribe (for most of them I managed to do it), in order to be able to capture both the general and the specific. I photographed representatives of both sexes, of any age, as well as some specific activities like sorting leaves of betel, which is, for instance, a specific occupation of the people of Khasi tribe. Most of the photographs you may view in the galleries to which I put links under the descriptions of every tribe.

In photograph part of this chapter I will rather confirm what many other photographers before me have found and from whom I’ve had the honor to buy knowledge.

When you visit for the first time some remote community, in the beginning, leave the camera in your bag. Just take a walk around, talk to people, laugh or otherwise meet them before you point the camera at their faces. That for sure will open the way for closer communication and will make the shooting more natural for them. Always when possible ask permission. However, there are moments when it is especially valuable just to take your camera and to shoot the scene, because any request for permission would spoil the authenticity of the moment. Here what happened to me in this regard: in one of the remotest rural communities in which I landed, I saw woman with no upper garment, which is a habit, specific for some tribes in the region of Chittagong Hill Tracts. She was busy with her housework and was not paying special attention to my presence. I looked at her with a smile and a desire to communicate, but my guide advised me to not smile, because that could be considered as a kind of mockery. He told me to stay serious, to approach and to shoot quickly. People of this tribe were shy. They did not show themselves too much and definitely had problem with shooting. Nevertheless, in order to have some pictures, I had to follow my guide’s advice, although I didn’t like this approach. In general, the basic rule is you first communicate and then you take pictures, if circumstances allow.

Another interesting practice, which always helps is to show to people on the display of your camera the pictures you just have taken. People accept that very well, have fun, especially children who consider you as their good friend. The idea is to create an atmosphere of good mood, laugh and fun. Smile is the universal language of all the people (well, almost all), and if you make it on the right place, your work will rise to a totally different level.
When you visit such places, first you have to photograph people. They are the most important. Shoot representatives of both sexes, of any age, if possible. Then shoot ambience, houses, in general, the place of life of the people, as well as their specific activities. For example, for me it was a pleasure to photograph a knitter of baskets, woman smoking traditional pipe, women who sort leaves of betel. So, nothing else but unique activities, performed at this place only.