‘Lime Turf’ displays
|Posted Nov. 9, 2007|
Backbreaking labor and substandard working conditions contrasted by vibrant colors and smiles can be seen in “Lime Turf.”
Jane Schreibman’s collection of 20 photographs is on display in the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography at the University of La Verne.
Her photographs depict the lives of mostly women and a few men and children who work a section of land in India for its lime.
“When I first saw the limekilns from a distance I thought they were the ruins of ancient castle walls, I got closer and saw that I had been correct on one point, many of the walls are indeed dilapidated,” Schreibman wrote in an artist’s statement.
“It is a powerful, beautiful show,” said Steve Kinzie, assistant director of the Learning Enhancement Center.
“It’s quite remarkable work,” Kinzie said.
Schreibman took the photographs four years ago after seeing the limekilns a year earlier in Rajasthan, India while visiting a friend.
“The previous year a poorly maintained ramp had collapsed, resulting in the fiery death of nine people,” Schreibman wrote.
Duties of the workers in Rajasthan include chiseling lime from rock, crushing the lime and carrying the pieces up ramps to the kilns where it is then burned.
Schreibman discovered that many of the women working the land belong to a group of people in India’s caste system known as Untouchables.
A 2003 National Geographic article by Tim O’Neill, gives readers a better understanding of what it means to be an Untouchable in India.
“A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts – people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings.
“Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in rural areas where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live.
“Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.”
Because of the Untouchables’ position in India’s caste system, they are forced to participate in whatever work they can find, which includes the work in Rajasthan.
Working with the lime is not only hazardous because of the heavy lifting and threat of falling boulders and dangerous fire.
Lime is used for making cement and insecticides. The constant exposure to the dust often leads to lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
“I thought what an anti-life thing it would be,” Gary Colby, gallery director, exhibit curator and professor of photography said.
Though the subject of the photographs is dark, the pictures are full of vibrant color in the women’s clothing.
“It is a beautiful dichotomy,” Colby said.
Kirsten Ogden, as well as Kinzie, has decided to use the exhibit as part of her class.
“The story suggests a conflict of characters, a conflict of trying to survive and make it, and a picture of a girl smiling,” said Ogden, writing programs director.
Two of Ogden’s writing classes were given an assignment requiring them to observe the photographs and expand their ideas into poems.
“It addresses questions of human fate, raises the interesting question of the privilege of not being born in such a place,” Kinzie said. “How do we deal ethically with such human conditions?”
Despite the dangerous conditions the lime workers face in Rajasthan, it goes unnoticed by the most of the world.
“I think it’s important for people to open their minds in global terms,” Schreibman said.
After seeing her work, Schreibman hopes that people will learn to have bigger hearts.
“Lime Turf” will be on exhibit through Dec. 1. A reception will be held Nov. 13.
Susan Acker can be reached at email@example.com.