Rual life in Southern India is far from romantic. Maybe for us visitors from Europe or the US. But for the inhabitants, in this case, the women of the Lamani Tribe, it is poor, hard, draining and without a perspective for the better. They all are dreaming of a different, what they call “better life”.
Lamanis migrated long ago from the northern state of Rajasthan to the south and live now predominantly in the state Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, in small villages on their own. Mainly they work as field labour, or in road construction. Rarely they own land, or property. In the villages close to cities, their inherent style of fashion passed-on through centuries is not to be seen anymore: Sewing by hand elaborate layers of dresses and scarf´s, wearing them with pride and dignity, tattooing arms and hands, grooming the hair in their special way and wearing heavy silver jewelry in the the hair, on ankles and wrists.
This is all gone for the younger generation. These days it´s the easy-to-wear and cheep common Indian saris what they dress in. No heavy silver jewelry no more tattoo´s. In the time of cel phones and web they only dress up on special occasions in their personal hand-made dresses. Not to forget that the sari covers the stigma as a Gypsy, a member of the lowest Indian cast.
To find Lamani women, who are still steeped into tradition, one has to travel to remote villages,far away from national highways, or cities. In the district Hospet in the southern state Karnataka, they are living in clusters of huts and small villages like Ginna Pur, or Chandri Giri. Mud huts with palm leaves, sometimes raw brick houses, (that are funded by the Indian government) is what they call home. What sometimes looks like desert around the village, are actually fields. Poverty at it´s worst.
In these small villages tradition is still in place. Here the old and young women still follow the style of fashion, the old rules and traditions are still valid. This implies that girls are getting married at the age of twelve to fourteen and become mothers. They grow up with a very bad, or no education at all. Over 80% are illiterate. Traditional life and the cast system keeps them in poverty, allowing them only to work on the fields, to cut sugar cane, or to break stones for the streets. They say Lamani women are as strong as men and do the same labour in the fields. But the salary of the women is just a third of the men´s.
Laziness and exessive drinking are the daily problems created by men. The women are the ones who fight for the survival of the family, take care of the finances, raise the children, cook, do the laundry and clean the houses, besides the eight hours shifts on the fields. Often they are found as the village speakers.
But despite their poverty and despair, one meets them as demanding and strong, upright and authentic, straight forward and powerful.
Editions LAMANI TRIBE Edition 1: 120 x 100 cm | 47,24 x 39,37´´ Edition 2: 80 x 60 cm | 31,49 x 23,62´´