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A Documentary Project by IIP student Suwail Asharaf At MANKULAM

The MANNAN people are the one of the scheduled tribes who lives in Idukki district in KERALA, INDIA. The MANNAN has hereditary KING who leads them. They are said to be descendants of PANDIYAN KING and their mother tongue is proper TAMIL.

The MANNAN people have long lived in the dense forest areas, but more recently have moved to working small farms. They have literacy rate far below the average in India. Fort like mountains can be seen from ADIMALI, a hill town pf IDUUKI district. Steep rocks are featured with occasional trees. It is hard to imagine that a community has survived, living beyond these monolithic with a lifestyle that hasn’t changed in the past hundred years. The MANNAN settlement is 16 KM from IDUKKI town.

I chose this subject because information regarding this community in Wikipedia or any other online media was not available and I wanted to explore more about them. I wanted to mainly highlight one family in that community. The family consists of one small girl, one small boy and father. As a documentary photographer, I found out that father is raising his children without their mother.  And also, they are facing a problem of non-availability of proper education for the small kids. The literacy rate of the community is below average. The reason behind the mother’s death was not explained by the father and also the kids have no information about it.

Since the visit into the community during the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there were strict restrictions which were in place and because of that we could gather only limited amount of information. There were lots of other faces besides this family. The houses in which they live are called “kudi”. They build their “kudis” without taking any help from outsiders. The members within the community help each other in building them. The raw materials used in building the “kudis” are mainly bamboo shoots and grass. Their main income sources are obtained by selling pepper and cardamom. They sell in huge loads. They buy other necessities only once in a week by trekking down the mountain. The main reason behind this is that there is 6 km between their settlement and town market. In order to protect their farmland and themselves from the attack of wild animals like elephants, boars and buffaloes they have put an electric fence around their settlement. They have also dug out some trench in order to prevent elephant attacks. They also make handheld slingshots which could be used to make the wild boars run away from their farmlands. When it is rainy season there will be lots of leeches around, at that time they use boots and Dettol in order to protect themselves.

This is the first time that a documentary about them is being prepared by a person with a camera. They were excited and curios to see our camera. Also the fear of corona was seen in their faces because of we are outsider. One more interesting fact about this community is that they won’t allow the women in their community to marry an outsider; they marry only within their community.

Suwail Asharaf, Student of Diploma in Photography at IIP.

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DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.


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