Capturing the traditions and lives of India’s qawwals


New Delhi

It was while organising symposiums featuring qawwal voices from across India, that performer Manjari Chaturvedi, who works closely with qawwal singers for her unique dance form Sufi Kathak, realised the sheer lack of visual documentation of qawwal communities. And this led to the birth of the Qawwali Photo Project in 2011, which aimed to document and conserve this intangible heritage. “Since I’ve been documenting and archiving qawwals for over 20 years, I’d ask the qawwals for photographs of their grandfathers. They’d usually fish out a passport-size photograph and say, “Yeh the”. There would hardly be any kind of photo-documentation,” says Chaturvedi.

Years after having embarked upon the extensive project, the dancer-choreographer is now presenting a pioneering exhibition on Qawwali, in the Capital, featuring meticulous photo-documentation of qawwals by three photographers — Dinesh Khanna, Mustafa Quraishi and Leena Kejriwal over the last four years. Not only are the lives and performance art of qawwali practitioners photo-documented, but their association with the Sufi shrines, where they perform, are also captured.

While Khanna’s lens has captured qawwal traditions in the shrines of Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Ajmer, Quraishi travelled to the prominent Uttar Pradesh shrines of Dewa Sharif, Safipur and Hazrat Salim Chisti. And, Kejriwal captured women performers and also the qawwals at the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia.

Kejriwal shares, “This project is important as this community has not gotten due space in history. I hope, in future, they will be part of the system, and not remain on the periphery.”

Towards the conclusion of the photo-exhibition, the sixth edition of the day-long seminar ‘Understanding Qawwali’ and a ‘Qawwali Mehfil’ are also slated to take place on November 27.

Catch It Live

What: The Qawwali Photo Project

Where: India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg

When: November 18-28

Timing: 11 am – 7pm

Nearest metro station: JLN Stadium on Violet Line

Author tweets @siddhijainn

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About Post Author

Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh Born on 15 Jun 2001 an Indian author and activist from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Live in New Delhi