Africa

This photographer giving Africans in India a voice

Updated 12:01 PM ET, Tue April 4, 2017
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After a violent attack on a 21 year old student in Bangalore last year, photographer Mahesh Shantaram felt compelled to do something.
Pictured: Prosper from Tanzania in Bangalore

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
He decided to start capturing the lives of Africans living in India in a bid to understand the racism they face. "Being a photographer, the only response I know how to have is to make photos," Shantaram told CNN.

Pictured: Abdul Karim from Nigeria pursues a B.Sc in Information Technology from NIMS in Jaipur

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
"I met them and spoke to them at length to try and understand the gravity of the situation, the everyday racism that they face," he said.

Pictured: Aminu from Bauchi, Nigeria pursues a B.A. in Economics from NIMS, Jaipur.

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
Shantaram started in his own city, Bangalore, where the attack on the student took place and began meeting, talking and photographing Africans there.

Pictured: Zaharaddeen Muhammad is pursuing an M.Sc. Chemistry in Noida International University

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
"I had been disturbed by news of racism and discrimination, but when it's so close to home then it hits harder," he said.

"The first reaction was 'how could this happen in my city?' and then after thinking about it for a while you realise it's not about the city but it's something more deep-seated."

Pictured: Wandoh from Chad in Bangalore

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
In total he spent five months traveling across India taking photos of Africans, living in the country. He amassed dozens of portraits and turned them into a photo series 'Racism: Africans in India."

Pictured: Samuel from Nigeria in Delhi

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
"Journalists spend five minutes with them," Shantaram said. I want to spend five hours with them, I think I can get more nuance."

Pictured: Nana & Cynthia in Bangalore

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
"By hearing them out I've heard so much about my own country," Shantaram explained. "It's not about Africans anymore, it's about India and something that's deeply wrong with our society."

Pictured: Lawrence from Nigeria in Bangolore

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
Through these images Shantaram is keen to "start and continue" a conversation about racism in India, in light of an increasing number of attacks against Africans in the country.

Pictured: Isabelle waiting for a bus in Delhi

Photo courtesy of: Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram
The photo series is currently being exhibited in five cities across India and Shantaram hopes to expand the project into a documentary and to visit Africa and meet the families of the people he photographed.

Pictured: Helen in Jalandhar, 2016.
Mahesh Shantaram
So far he has been "overwhelmed" by the response. "My African friends see this work as giving them a voice," he said.

Pictured: Yvanne and his friend at Jimmy's Chicken in Jalandhar,2016
Mahesh Shantaram