Taha Ahmad
INDIA
Taha Ahmad is a photographer based in India. Born in Lucknow in 1994, he developed an interest in photography while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. He feels photography has a strong influence in creating and developing discourse for the future. His work is a visual representation of the shift in pluralistic landscapes, the traumatic past and a culture which is threatened by religious conflicts, social injustice, politics, and the times we live in. His works have been widely exhibited internationally and he has been published in numerous publications including The Sunday Guardian, Times Of India, Asian News International (ANI), Asian Age. Recipient of The Documentary Project Fund/ Award 2018, Toto-Tasveer Award for Photography 2018, Sahapedia Frames Photography Grant 2018 and the Neel Dongre Grant/Award for Excellence in Photography 2016-17, Taha was also nominated in the Photojournalism category of the International Photography Grant 2017 and shortlisted for the Lucie Foundation Scholarship in 2017 & 2018. Taha’s project ‘A Displaced Hope’ was a winner of the SDN ‘Documentary in the Era of PostTruth’ Call for Entries and he was invited for an Artist-in-Residence program to develop a body of work on the biggest displacement ever in the history of mankind ‘Partition of India and Pakistan’. Taha has a BA (Gold Medalist) and an MA in Fine Arts.
A Displaced Hope
Genies, according to Islamic texts, are powerful supernatural creatures created out of fire. I was born and raised in the Indian city of Lucknow, where the existence of supernatural powers and of genies is a common belief. Superstition and Firoz Shah Kotla have always run parallel to each other. The ruins of the Kotla fortress built in the Indian capital in the 18th century by then king Feroz Shah Tughlaq, is nestled between a cricket stadium and the city’s ring road. It is within these ruins that we find the heart of genie worship. Thousands of people gather here every Thursday; praying, writing letters, pasting coins, and lighting candles and lamps to implore the genies for a better life. In the alcoves of the fortress’s stone walls people can be seen inking and pasting letters, photocopies of personal documents with passport size photographs hoping to resolve their problems with the blessings of the genies. A middle-aged woman I met on one visit, asserted that the only reason her loved ones are “hale and hearty” is because she has regularly visited the fort weekly for the last 20 years. A society which is completely ostracized due to political negligence, religious differences, unawareness, and injustice has become a money-making mechanism for the self-proclaimed Godmen in the fort to exploit the misfortunes of the people. People bring in money, which is swept out in the name of superstition. The end of a Thursday in Kotla is rather ironic. Letters and money left by devotees are ruthlessly removed by the clerics working at the fort; money is divided amongst the clerics and the handwritten letters, voicing hopes for a better life, end up in the garbage. Through this project, I aim to explore what I was taught while growing up, how it contradicts what is being practiced at Kotla, and bring attention to the injustice done to devotees. Using my own personal experiences, and family traditions, the project explores the alteration of my idealized memories from the modern scenario of erratic disbelief and long-standing shibboleths. It is a personal journal, a journey into the nostalgic space of my childhood lapsing into history challenging contemporary belief in the doctrines of a religion. The project is a visual ode to a mystical force that compels me to divulge reality and embrace superstition. It is an ardent longing to hold onto my culture, folklore, upbringing and amalgamate my perception towards the modern world despite history and excessively credulous belief.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.