A Ritual of Exile: Blood Speaks / Poulomi Basu

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A Ritual of Exile: Blood Speaks / Poulomi Basu

Women create habitat. They shape the natural environment in accordance with the natural rhythms of their own body. They create a space in which humanity can prosper and thrive.

“It’s dark, and there is no light. I feel so scared someone might come.”

Radha is only 16 but once a month her habitat is radically altered: she is exiled into a makeshift shelter deep in the forests of Nepal. Her only crime is that she is menstruating. Radha is an untouchable, an ‘impure’ polluting agent, to be feared and shunned. During menstruation, her touch will bring calamity and sickness to a man, even to animals. To put it simply, for her community, she is an ill omen. Like her mother before, her Radha must follow the damaging ritual of Chhaupadi. 

Alone in the wildness, the women are at the mercy of the elements; many die, bitten by snakes, or asphyxiated from the smoke of a fire, which they use to keep warm in the cold; sometimes the fire catches the hut and they die in the ensuring blaze; women are raped, and in extreme cases, abducted, raped and murdered. Those that survive their repeated exiles, must spend a lifetime battling with the devastating consequences of PTSD.

This ritual is one of the most abusive forms of human rights violations to women.

Photos are no longer things, they are experiences: I want to turn my audience into activists. To do so, I am using a powerful combination of photography and immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), 360 projections and atmospheric ambient sound.

The installation is designed to make the audience embark on an immersive journey so that they come to understand the isolation, hardship and claustrophobia that the women must endure during their exile. This process will alter the audiences mindset and work to increase the resonance of the still images themselves, which will be displayed on low-powered light boxes so that audience must come close to view the images.

Violence against women does not stop at borders or confine itself to specific cultural context: it is universal.