The Ground Beneath Their Feet

A river island being eaten away by the Brahmaputra

01 May 2016
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ASSAM'S MAJULI is the largest river island in India. It might eventually lose that title. Ever since an earthquake changed the course of the Brahmputra in 1950, the river’s erosion of Majuli has intensified. Seasonal flooding, which has always been a problem, also contributes. Between 1917 and 2001, the island’s surface area shrank from 751 square kilometres to 422 square kilometres. The 170,000 people living on the island, which is home to dozens of Hindu monasteries, are in a constant struggle to protect their land and culture.

This community, under threat from the forces of nature, forms the subject of “Majuli,” a photo series by the French photographer Dorian François. According to François, the work is not just an act of documentation with a conservationist agenda, but also an attempt at capturing the island’s ways of life. He took these photographs during multiple trips to the island, over a span of three years.

François first travelled to Majuli in 2007, while on a tour of Asia after dropping out of university. A local journalist acted as a linguistic and cultural interpreter until François learnt Assamese. He had no computer, internet or cellphone during his stay. “Once I took the boat to Majuli, I was gone,” he said. François made many friends on the island, eating in their homes, cooking with their families and working with them in their fields.

Dorian Francois is a French freelance photographer, who has travelled widely in Asia. His work has been shown in galleries across several countries.

Keywords: earthquake Assam climate change Brahmaputra Flood Majuli