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Hijra photoshoot in Dhaka

By Sabya van Elswijk,

hijras and martijn

Today we were invited by Katha to come to the place where she usually gives dance classes to other hijra. She invited 10 hijra to come today and be part of the portraits we are making on hijra in Bangladesh, as a part of the Dhaka project and Dragqueens of the World. We arrived on the top floor of a building in the centre of Dhaka, which is waiting to be renovated, to provide a place where hijra can come and educate themselves and each other.

Ten hijra are there, beautiful in clothing and make-up, all with a natural female look and energy. We also get introduced to five people working with government and Ngo’s who support the hijra community. We only have 3 hours for this shoot, and want to return later. To hang out with all of them, to talk more about their backgrounds and lives. Samsul and Emran are here, talking to all of them, asking about themselves. Meanwhile Martijn starts the photoshoot in daylight, which is good, because there is no electricity in the building yet. I am taken by the NGO people to see the whole floor and talk about their goals and support for the hijra. Some of the hijra are playing soccer with Sét.

Looking at the group of hijra, they look like they are visiting a family party. Some younger ones are gossiping together, posing for each others mobiles. Elder hijras are gathered in the corner chairs, drinking tea. The officials are sitting and talking together. The diversity between the look and character of the hijra is enormous, as it is between women walking on the street. After doing their photoshoot with Martijn, and talking to Samsul and Emran about themselves, they come to me to do their private photoshoot with me, the foreign woman. They want portraits together as we are friends, very close and hugging. They probably don’t realize how special it is for us to meet them.

In two week we will be back here to spend more time and make group photos.

Hijra in Bangladesh

Hijra is a community of emasculated people originally from Indian culture. They are consider as a third gender: not a man nor a woman. The Bangladeshi government gave officially a status in 2014 to the approximately 10.000 of them. You can read more in this article from worldpolicy.com Continue reading →