An exhibition that throws light on the life of transgenders presented by German media philosopher Claudia Reiche

Life and society has a way of throwing back what you want to see. Here’s a look at what you miss out in the process. Claudia Reiche, bangaloREsident@Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology recently presented her work-in-progress presentation H*jra at 1 Shanthi Road recently.

Following an artistic approach, the photo and video exhibition showcased a never-before-seen view of the lives of transgenders and their various traditions and practises.

Bringing out these invisible spaces to the public eye Claudia tries to open a window to their world through her lenses.

H*jra presents a multi-layered work on necessary failures of representation, explains Claudia. What catches the eye first is a framed sepia-toned photograph from the19th century – A picture titled "Hijra, supposed hermaphrodite". Showing a transgender on a ladder showered with flowers by two women, Claudia says it can be interpreted in many ways. “For me, the ladder represents the bridge between male and female that the transgender unites,” she says.

The next picture is a twisted colonial/tourist setting in today's modern Lalbagh Glasshouse with a Bangalore photographer shooting a group of transgenders.

“This represents a looking glass feeling where observations are made through the camera. The Hijras either blend or stand out in the photo depending on how you look at it.” Then there is a section of photos taken by the members of the local transgender community itself using a camera given by Claudia. This features glimpses of their daily lives, views on their surroundings and “what they'd wish away or wish to stay. This is interesting because we are seeing the world through their eyes,” points out Claudia.

The video section captures a celebration of the marriage between the Aravan and Mohini - the female form of Krishna - at the Koovagam ceremony.

What inspired her in this direction is the global definition of these people. “I wanted a more localised definition and provide a perspective rarely seen in the open. After all, political solidarity can be achieved if we appreciate differences within society. I took this up to reflect what people don’t see. It is quite important to know what is secret and hidden.”

Being a media philosopher, Claudia feels it is up to people like her to bring out what is not depicted to the public domain.

She says she was welcomed into the community easily. “I never tried to be intrusive in my approach. I only wanted to be able to observe what they are willing to let me see. I learnt a lot, especially during their interaction in the project.”

On why there is an asterisk in her project title H*jra, she says the asterisk is a tradition against gender identity. “If you put an asterisk, it’s a queer definition of being a person. So it is one way of saying this is not a fixed and personal identity and can be substituted with anything.”

On her discovery, Claudia says: “I found a blindness prevalent here. Most people tend to ignore them. This community is deliberately unseen in society.”

Will there be a change in this perception and acceptance? Claudia replies in the affirmative.

“It is a difficult yes. Acceptance of the third gender itself is a big step so it will eventually fall into place. Times are changing and I feel that very strongly.”