Vivek Vadoliya captures the powerful potential of the body in the debut photobook

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The particular British-Asian photographer uses their lens to explore the ancient practise of Mallakhamb – an intricate sport fusing wrestling with yoga

From the west coast of Indian, amidst the early morning haze and encroaching shadows associated with Mumbai’s sprawling metropolis, lengthy poles jauntily stick out across the skyline. If you take a better look, you may see a physique or two scaling in excess on these ramshackle wooden apparatus, contorted in shapes unlike any you have actually seen. This is Mallakhamb; just a little known, insular sport performed across the state of Maharashtra, and subject of British-Asian photographer Vivek Vadoliya’s 1st photobook of the same name.

Translated as ‘wrestler from the pole’, Mallakhamb’s origins could be traced back to the twelve th century in Sanskrit texts. It is a historical skill kept alive regionally by a handful of communities. With roots in Hindu monkey god mythology, athletes carry out 90-second routines with unbelievable precision, packed with intricate movements assessed on pole, hanging and rope – pertaining to speed, grace and trouble. “Mallakhamb is a form of wrestling combined with yoga grips plus poses, ” Vadoliya explains. “It’s a way for wrestlers to train, using the pole in order to learn how to grapple with the body. It’s a performance, the discipline – a special event. ”

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

“My work is about partying the ordinary, those who can be overlooked but have a really brilliant story to tell. ”

The professional photographer was travelling around Of india when he first found Mallakhamb. With some further study, the sport quickly piqued Vadoliya’s interest. “I’ve been discovering the body for a while now, understanding how it moves; the forms our bodies can create are so beautiful, ” he says. “When all of us see pictures of the body, we don’t see photos of the Indian body. For me, that visibility was essential. Photography allows me to have these conversations, to go directly into communities and to interrogate me. I use my camera as being a tool to understand myself just as much as other people – whether that’s projects about masculinity or being Asian. My function is about celebrating the ordinary, people who can be overlooked but have a really fantastic story to inform. ”

Vadoliya got to understand the students at Mallakhamb’s foremost training facility in Mumbai early on in his visit, foregoing his lens to build relationship and spend time fully submerged in the environment. Despite shooting only three mornings’ pracises, Vadoliya’s resulting images are usually remarkable. Black and white, abstract forms mix with the terracotta dirt and golden glow associated with first light, when the awesome temperatures make it the best time in order to practise. The students’ bodies hang suspended upside down, somersaulting down ropes in bright red bodysuits, muscles twisting and twirling in an nearly superhuman balancing act, kept only by feet, hands, elbows and knees. Splashes of talcum powder and stray cricket balls fall scattered around the grounds.

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

“My hope is this function makes people think about the actual body is capable of, especially at a time where everyone has slowed down.

“A large amount of the process was spontaneous, the children were really up for revealing, we fed off one another, ” Vadoliya remembers lovingly. “I witnessed how they move and connect with the body – there’s such a language into it, ” he attests. “I want to celebrate Mallakhamb being an art form. Mallakhamb shows all of us what the body is able to carry out and how beautiful it can be, ” he adds. “My hope is this work makes people think about what the body is effective at, especially at a time where all of us have slowed down. I felt the necessity to share Mallakhamb with the world. ”

From the series Mallakhamb ©  Vivek Vadoliya.

Charlotte now Harding

Charlotte Harding is a writer, creative advisor and editor of A lot more This, a sustainable sourcebook for doing good, located in London.
She has been creating for British Journal of Photography since 2014, plus graduated in 2016 having an MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths, UoL. The girl work is published on various arts and culture platforms, including AnOther, TOASTED BREAD and Noon Magazine.

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