As a child, Jyothy Karat (29) spent most of her summer holidays at her grandparent's farm in the Gudalur valley in Tamil Nadu.
So when she was approached to work on a photo project as part of UNESCO's Green Initiative, the visual journalist chose to go back to the region.
Jyothi’s project, shot between 2014-2015, on the tribals of Gudalur is now on exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
When I recently visited these Aadivasi villages buried in the bosom of the Gudalur valley, I found them nurturing their own modest tea gardens, while their children studied arithmetic, taught to them at school using traditional weaving techniques. What was once considered a backward, uneducated community is now leading reform in the region through sustainable development. The hospital is efficiently run by trained Aadivasi health workers who nurture a dream to see an Aadivasi doctor graduate and work in their community. - Jyothy
“I knew the community so closely. I have grown up with them. So it made sense to go back to the place," says Jyothy who hails from Kerala but is currently based-out of Bengaluru.
In her project, she focused on the development work, majorly in the field of education, done by an NGO called ACCORD in the region in the Nilgiris
Stating one example, she says, “Initially, the nurses and doctors in the hospital did not want to treat them. So, they built a hospital which is run by people from their community."
Of the several stories that Jyothy tells through her pictures, one is of a tribal woman who became a pharmacist and another a teacher “who is like an ambassador for education in the community”.
Though there has been significant development in the lives of the Gudalur tribals over the years, not everything is perfect, cautions Jyothi. “A lot of work still needs to be done,” she says.
While she was excited about her work being exhibited on a UN platform, she feels there have been no tangible benefits that people of the region would get out of it. “I hope,” she says, “there's more awareness and that something good comes out of it.”
The exhibition will be open up to April 17, 2016.
Photographs by Jyothi Karat; SIPAPRESS/UNESCOGREENINITIATIVE