Karthik Subramanian: Mohona
When he travelled to photograph the place where the river Ganga joins the Bay of Bengal, the scenes of the shifting land in front of him blended with childhood memories of landscapes at the moving window. At this slippery edge between water and land, Subramanian began his preoccupation with still and moving images, memory and history, the end and the beginning.
The Sundarbans is a vast stretch of mangrove forests spread across an archipelago of islands in the Ganges delta in India and Bangladesh, inhabited by over four million people and a few hundred Royal Bengal tigers.
In this landscape intersected by a network of waterways, the boundaries dividing the human settlements and the tiger‐inhabited forests are ambiguous. The physical boundaries are constantly shaped and re‐shaped by tidal waves, governed as they are by the laws of nature.
The mentally earmarked boundaries are regularly betrayed too, with humans venturing into the forests seeking resources and the tigers straying into the villages in search of prey. The ensuing encounters often result in the loss of lives.
Mohona in Bengali means ‘confluence’ to reflect the ambiguous boundaries between people, tigers, land, rivers and sea.
As night falls over Sundarban, the ambiguities become even more pronounced. The landscape feels dense, visibility becomes deceptive, the air stills. The atmosphere is unsettling yet calming. There is no clear sense of where the forest begins or the village ends. It becomes evident that the Sundarban is a single entity. An entity wherein one’s habitat is continually encroached upon by the other. An entity where all the inhabitants struggle to survive, assert their rights and yet manage to coexist, for there is a delicate sense of belonging that connects the people to nature at the Sundarban.
The islands of the Sundarbans emerged at the end of three long rivers. It is the end of the rivers’ journey that got me thinking about the beginning, that lingering memory of when everything began for all of us. This project aims to explore the idea of boundaries between humans and nature in the Sundarban –– a place where boundaries seem like conceptual mirages.