Taha Ahmad

A Displaced Hope

Taha Ahmad is a visual artist based in India. He is represented as a part of VII Photo Agency’s mentorship program. His works are a visual representation of the shift in the pluralistic landscape of India, the traumatic past and the culture which is threatened by religious conflicts, social injustice, politics and the times we live in. He has been the first Indian to receive The Documentary Project Fund/Award 2017, Toto-Tasveer Award for Photography 2018 and the Neel Dongre Grant/Award for Excellence in Photography 2016-17. He has worked with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and UN India. His work has been published by national and international magazines and agencies, and exhibited in several photo festivals and galleries. His works have received several recognitions and has been invited as part residency and other projects.

A displaced hope

According to Islamic theology, Genies are powerful supernatural entities created out of the smokeless fire.

I was born and raised in the Indian city of Lucknow, where the existence of genies with their supernatural powers is a common belief. Superstition and Firoz Shah Kotla have been convergently linked for ages. The Kotla fortress in the Indian capital was built by King Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 18th century. Today, it’s a ruin nestling between a cricket stadium and the city’s ring road. It is within these ruins that we find the heart of genie worship. Thousands of people from all walks of life gather here every Thursday; praying, writing letters, pasting coins, lighting candles, and lamps to impress the genies for a better life. In the alcoves of the fortress’s stone walls, people can be seen inking and pasting letters, photocopies of their personal documents with passport size photographs, hoping that their problems will be resolved with the blessings of the genies. A middle-aged woman whom I encountered during one of my visits, asserted that the only reason her loved ones are “hail and hearty” is because she has been regularly visiting the fort every Thursday for the last 20 years. Another family whom I encountered during one of my other visits, narrated that Sulaiman, a self-proclaimed Godmen, declared that the family’s wishes and yearnings will be entertained in the court of the genies and fulfilled swiftly depending upon how hefty amount of money they will pay to him.

 

A displaced hope is a personal journal, a journey into the nostalgic space of my childhood lapsing into history, challenging the contemporary belief in the doctrines of a religion. It is a visual ode to a mystical force that compels me to divulge reality and embrace superstition. It is an ardent longing to hold onto my culture, folklore, upbringing, and amalgamate my perception towards the modern world in spite of history and excessively credulous belief. Using my own personal experiences and family traditions, this project explores the alteration of my idealized memories from the modern scenario of erratic disbelief and the long standing shibboleth.

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