Photographs by Bharat Sikka
Photographer Bharat Sikka takes us to the trees of Meghalaya. There, he records a sylvan symphony of ancient forests and the cultures that they hold.
In the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, the Khasi tribe have woven the roots of rubber fig trees into bridges. Carefully training the roots over decades, they create living bridges that can last for hundreds of years. The Khasi people are matrilineal, passing property ownership and last name down from the mother. They have kept their traditions alive throughout the generations, still largely dressing in traditional, handwoven fabrics.
In Kongthong, also known as the Whistling Village, everyone has a song for a name. They have official names, too, but residents only call each other by the tune chosen for them at birth. Addressing each other with music, their conversations become a melody. Jingrwai iawbei, as the practice of naming children with a song is called, translates to “song in honor of the root ancestress,” or the tribe’s first woman. When a child is born, it is their mother who composes a tune for them.
Bharat Sikka was born and raised in India, where he began his photographic practice before studying at the Parsons School of Design, NY. Sikka’s long term photographic projects have centered on the cultural residues and societal transformations within India, rendered with the visual language and material forms of contemporary art photography. His work subtly speaks to India’s history and regionality, the tide of globalization, and masculinity.
This article first appeared in Atmos Volume 08: Rhythm with the headline “Sylvan Symphony.”
Nature is an elaborate orchestra of interconnectedness, in which timing is everything.