In February 2012, Documentary Arts Asia hosted the first Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival. CDAF'12 is an annual festival bringing together documentary photographers and filmmakers in northern Thailand and presented nine photo exhibitions, three days of workshops and three nights of film screenings showcasing work from some of the finest documentary artists working in Asia. In collaboration with DEVELOP Photo the three day event is now accessible online.
Documentary Arts Asia is a non-profit organization which works primarily in photography and film, but also audio and narrative writing, to tell the stories from Asia that need to be heard.
A Race Divided by Veejay Villafranca: Today there are at least 70,000 Chin migrants living in Mizoram, primarily because of human rights abuses carried out by the Burmese military after it came to power in 1962. They have crossed the border illegally, joining the hundreds of thousands of other ethnic Burmese trying to escape oppression in their native land. In Mizoram it can be hard for someone to tell who are the Mizos and who are the Chins, but if one were to take a closer look the ethnic rift would be obvious. Just around the main market area of the city’s capital, Aizwal, Mizos own the nifty shops selling imported goods and electronic gadgets and the Chins are those on the side streets selling whatever crop they have harvested for the day, usually scraping together just enough to buy their family's next meal.
As the world’s focus shifts slightly towards Burma, thousands still try to make their way out. Even with the recent release of Nobel Peace laureate and national heroine Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, hundreds of political prisoners remain in Insein prison under unclear charges. In the hills, ethnic groups such as the Karen, Chin, Mon, Rohingya and many others still face hard unpaid labor and abuses from the military. The story of the race divided is a microcosm of what is faced across the whole country.
Their stories have been told time and time again in broadsheets and glossy magazines, and sadly their stories have also been replaced with new headlines time and time again. What I want to bring to the attention of the world is the issue of their personal space, or the lack of it due to greed and political backlash. Involuntary migration is one of the root causes of several human rights issues including slave trade and prostitution. The Chins travel hundreds of kilometers, by foot at times, to be able to obtain a space where they can live and raise their children, to rebuild families broken by distance. But what good does that bring if the land is not their own? And, moreover, a land where they are not recognized as refugees fleeing from oppression?
This project is part of an ongoing documentary project on the lives of Burmese migrants and how they cope with life outside their own land.
Vicente Jaime R. Villafranca (b. 1982 Philippines): Veejay was amongst seven Filipinos to be accepted in the first Asian documentary workshop of the Angkor photography festival in Siem Reap, Cambodia last 2005.
He started his career as a staff photojournalist for the national news magazine, Philippines Graphic before venturing into freelancing in 2006. He then worked with international wire agencies such as Agence France Presse, Reuters, World Picture Network and the United Nations IRIN news wire before concentrating on his personal documentary projects.
His project about the lives of former gang members in one of Manila’s dangerous slums, BASECO compound, garnered him the 2008 Ian Parry Scholarship grant in London. He was also a full scholar at the Asian Center for Journalism Photojournalism program managed by the World Press Photo Foundation in 2007-2008, and the 2nd artist to hold residence in the Crossing Point program held in Perpignan, France in 2008.
His images has been exhibited in London, Lithuania, Hongkong, Phnom Pehn, France, Japan, Portugal, Norway, Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey and Manila. Veejay's continued effort in pursuing in-depth and personal stories has brought him to different parts of the Philippines and Asia as he continues to pursue projects on Filipino faith rituals as a fading culture and other religious practices, the concept of reserved space for ethnic tribes, illegal migration in Southeast Asia due to political oppression and migration due to the rapid change in weather patterns. Veejay is currently based in Manila and represented by Getty Global Assignments in London and Asia Motion in Asia and Europe.
This video is part of the DEVELOP Tube Channel which can be found at DEVELOP Tube: Photography to Watch. DEVELOP Tube is an educational resource which features interviews, profiles, lectures & films about photojournalism, fine art photography & documentary photography.