Imagine a strong, indispensable idea, that of protecting, through school, through education, little girls from forced or arranged marriage.
Include a number of innumerable constraints, of which the caste system is undoubtedly the worst, well accompanied by the tradition of the dowry, the sword of Damocles over a majority, almost a death threat to child daughters and the main reason for infanticide in India. Try to create a balance that allows the child-daughter to live her childhood, her adolescence, and to keep her integrity as long as possible.
In this regard, Piplantri, a village located in the Rajsamand district of southern Rajasthan, India, has been able to find and carry out a flagship project, a unique project that gives it the title of eco-feminist village.
This initiative has radically changed living conditions in the village and has earned it a recognition that no other village of this size has ever had before. For more than ten years now, the villagers have been introducing an innovative principle: to celebrate the birth of a baby girl, 111 trees are planted around the village by the population. A contract is signed, stipulating that the parents undertake to educate their daughter until she comes of age. It also stipulates that the girl will not be married until she completes her studies. In order to avoid problems related to the financing of the dowry, a bank account is opened for the child-daughter. 21,000 Indian rupees are deposited in it, a contribution from the village inhabitants to which 10,000 rupees are added, an obligatory effort on the part of the parents. The sum is frozen until the girl reaches the age of majority and will be used either for her marriage or to pay for her higher education. If the child leaves school, the contract is broken and the money is lost to the family. Put this modern idea, which India may one day reap the benefits of, on the scales.
On the other tray, place the marble quarries. The presence of marble in the subsoil has made too much agriculture disappear. Its exploitation dries up the land. Before extracting the marble, some of them were farmers and owners of their land. Uninformed of its real value, they often sold it at a low price and found themselves working for the one who acquired it in this way.
In these quarries, working conditions are appalling, the miners suffer from dehydration, poorly treated wounds and hearing problems. There are worse things. Respiratory pathologies are very common, including the dreaded silicosis caused by the inhalation of silica dust particles that destroy the lungs. It cannot be cured. In 2016, a study estimated that one out of every two marble miners will one day suffer from silicosis or silico-tuberculosis. That is more than 800,000 people. Marble dust is everywhere and makes not only the miners but also all the villagers living not far from the quarries sick.
How can this duality be shown?
The idea of the montage seemed obvious to me, in the manner of the cubists who represented objects that were analyzed, decomposed and reassembled into an abstract composition. Like them, I wanted to show the coexistence of intertwined realities by abandoning the classical perspective and exploding forms.
There is no order to look at this series of images. Each visual is a piece of history and can live alone, but it is part of a whole.
These photo montages thus show elements of the marble quarries of Piplantri in a single visual, with all that they evoke of hardship, health risks for the miners who work there, the injured who have worked there, tuberculosis patients, the widows of dead miners and also the wives or daughters of these men, some of whom benefit from this amazing programme that protects them.