Tribal Odisha

Mary Catherine Messner

2018 - Ongoing


The state of Odisha is located in eastern India, bounded by the Bay of Bengal. A large portion of its population is indigenous, made up of sixty-two Scheduled Tribes recognized in the Indian constitution. While each tribal community has a unique heritage, the members of these defined tribes share certain cultural features that signify a primitive level of existence and distinguish them from India's predominant social hierarchy. For centuries, tribal customs and traditions remained unchanged, shielded by the remote rural locations of most tribal villages. However, due to progressive social programs and westernization, the process of acculturation has made rapid headway in recent years, changing the tribes' traditional lifestyles, economic traits, and political organization. This project introduces the viewer to Odisha's tribes and depicts scenes of everyday tribal life that still harbor vestiges of the past before these traits disappear into modernity. The images in this ongoing series were made as I traveled through Odisha exploring tribal villages and markets.

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