A Taste of the Wild East
Better Photography|February 2021
Sanjiv Valsan paints a captivatingly intimate portrait of Arunachal Pradesh’s indigenous tribes through their food and culture.
Sanjiv Valsan

Six years ago, while I was working on a feature for a travel magazine on Arunachal Pradesh, I met some of the most warm and welcoming indigenous people.

Their culture, uncomplicated ways and joyful coexistence with nature impressed me. At some point, I found myself naturally shifting course, and getting more involved with the community—an attachment that led me to work on a photography centered book that would highlight the indigenous way of life, told through food and the various traditions around it. Food is perhaps the most accessible and easiest to relate to, since eating is universal to all beings, and our approach to food shapes us. After all, we are what we eat. And so, I chose tribal food as a way in. The hearth, fire and kitchen are also the physical and cultural centre, in some ways, a ‘living room’ of the traditional tribal home. It’s a place where not just cooking, but also social life and rituals take place.

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