Monday, 8 April 2013

Back Story | The Banana Seller of Mattencherry

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Another of my favorite location for street photography in India is old Mattencherry (part of Kochi) which was once a bustling centre of trade, particularly in spices. Due to the tolerance of the erstwhile rulers of Kochi, communities such as Jews, Arabs, Konkanis, Gujaratis, Jains and Marathis made it their home and the center of their business. 

The street activity of the area is a virtual live theater, with bazaar-like alleys, traditional godowns and stores stocked with all types of rice, dark brown nutmeg, red and green chillies, earthy ginger, black pepper and other spices. Not only people photography of traders, merchants, porters, but there are details, age-old textures, peeling wall colors (or discolored) of indigo blue and ochre.

Many of the local people I spoke with, and photographed, were Muslims, descendants of the Arab merchants who propagated their faith along the Malabar Coast. A significant community was created through the marriage of local women to these Arab sailors, and are still known as the Mappilas or Moplahs. The Arabs merchants and mariners are believed to come from the Red Sea coastal areas, and from the Hadramaut region of Yemen.

The banana seller was probably one of those. A few words of Arabic greetings were exchanged, and he exhibited the traditional hospitality and generosity of Arabs extended to visitors and guests by offering me some bananas from the many clusters hanging in his modest stall. Small and sweet, these were certainly tastier than any available in Western supermarkets.