Poulomi Basu's body of work, A Ritual of Exile, investigates the causes and the consequences of normalized violence against women in Nepal. Perpetrated under the guise of Hindu tradition, the root cause of this violence is the belief in the impurity of a women’s menstrual blood. Hidden, under-reported and unresolved, these women are untouchable and, as a result, this violence takes the form of ‘exiles,” a way to keep menstruation shrouded in mystery and taboo, a weapon to shame women into subservience. In a world that is ravaged by war, the media is often full of images of those affected by conflict but, for many, the conflict begins at home.
This multidisciplinary project, combining still photography and virtual reality films, is designed to reach multiple audiences across different platforms, including print, virtual and physical installations.
"I want to turn my audience into activists and crack open the veil of silence and shame around women whose lives are shattered by such gender based violence," Basu says.
A Ritual of Exile reveals how the chaupadi ritual disrupts the lives of girls, exposes them to recurring danger and imposes unjust restrictions on women throughout their lives.
Poulomi Basu is a storyteller, artist and activist. Her name sounds like ‘follow me’ with a ‘P’.
She was raised by her mother in Calcutta, India and found early inspiration in the city’s rich cinematic history. After her father’s sudden death when Poulomi was 17, her mother told her to leave home, to follow her dreams and live a life of breadth and choices that was denied to her.
Since then, Poulomi prefers the path less trodden. She has slept in the wilderness under a cloudless sky staring at a million stars in search of a guerrilla army whose story strikes right at the very heart of modern India’s global ambitions, through to divided families eking out an Alaskan existence on the last rocky outpost of American soil.
Time and again, she has found herself amongst ordinary people who quietly challenge the prevailing orthodoxies of the world in which they live: rural women in armed conflict, a mother's pain for a son lost to ISIS, to the wonder of a near blind child reaching for the light.
Poulomi is forever in awe of the resilience shown by those in extraordinary circumstance, by those who are bent but not broken.
Poulomi’s work has become known for documenting the role of women in isolated communities and conflict zones and more generally for advocating for the rights of women.
In December 2015, she shared a platform with the parents of the Nirbhaya Delhi rape victim talking about her social activist initiative, The Rape in India Project.
And, in January 2016 at the UN Young Changemakers Conclave, Poulomi spoke on the social impact of sustainable development with specific reference to her long-term project A Ritual of Exile and her collaboration with NGO Water Aid and their To Be A Girl campaign, which raised £2 million, using this material.
Poulomi was featured alongside Hilary Clinton as one of the one of the 'Amazing women from around the world giving their best advice' by Refinery29.
Poulomi was part of the VII Mentor Program. She is based between New Delhi and London. She has covered issues across Asia, Europe and America.
She is co-founder and director of Just Another Photo Festival, a festival that democratizes photography by taking photography to the people and forging new audiences.
Poulomi has also undertaken the 'Reporting in Crisis Zones' hostile management training at Columbia School of Journalism, kindly supported with a bursary from the Rory Peck Trust.