Mahesh Shantaram - The African Portraits

The African Portraits, Mahesh Shantaram’s most recent body of work, documents the lives of African students living in India in a series of intimate portraits. Following an increasing number of racial attacks in India in the recent past, and particularly spurred by the shocking attack of a young Tanzanian woman by a mob in January  2016 in Bangalore, Mahesh Shantaram set out on a project to increase awareness of the everyday racism and discrimination faced by Africans in India.

With this project, Shantaram, a subjective-documentary photographer turns to formal portraiture for the first time. Beginning with Bangalore, he has travelled to Jaipur, Delhi and Manipal to record the experiences of African students in India. Shantaram chooses to particularly focus on students, as they are an extremely small and vulnerable group; having nowhere to go to seek redressal for their injustices in a society that is so prejudiced against them.

His emotionally resonant portraits force viewers to look beyond stereotypes— attempting to bring the stories and lives of African students to the conscious attention of the larger Indian public. Drawing attention to the individuality and humanity of his subjects, these photographs highlight the necessity of acknowledging and addressing the racism they face—and point towards the plurality of Africans, who hail from several different countries and societies and are yet nevertheless, unfairly and ignorantly branded in India by their continent of origin and colour of skin.

Exhibition Schedule


27 August - 23 September 2016

Sua House
26/1 Kasturba Cross Road
Bangalore – 560001


14 October - 24 September 2016

NID PG Campus
GH- 0 Extension Road, Near Infocity
Gandhinagar – 382007


03 December - 10 December 2016

K Dubash Marg
Kala Ghoda, Fort
Mumbai – 400023


18 February - 03 March 2017

The Harrington Street Arts Centre
8 Ho Chi Minh Sarani
Harrington Mansions
2nd floor, Flt no. 5 & 25B
Kolkata 700071

New Delhi

02 June - 16 June 2017

Exhibit 320
F - 320 Lado Sarai
New Delhi - 110030