Academic journal article Humanity

Swineherders

Academic journal article Humanity

Swineherders

Article excerpt

"Is it a man's life? AU day we have to run after pigs from bush to bush. There is no respite at all," Nirmal Chandra Das told me. He is a fifty-six-year-old herdsman. He has been doing this job since 1972. Early in his life, he worked his father's herd. Now he is working someone else's herd, earning approximately $45 a month.

He is from a Das community of Atharobari in Iswarganj, a part of Mymensingh district in Bangladesh. This community has approximately sixty families, Dalits descended from bonded laborers brought to East Bengal during the colonial era. Almost all the local men are involved in swineherding. The women of the community work in their homes, making kitchenware items out of bamboo kola, chaloon, and tukri, for example), which they sell in local markets.

Swineherding is an ancient and hereditary profession in Bangladesh. Although a swineherd's family lives in a particular place, he constantly moves with the herd, spending his nights in tents made of bamboo and plastic. Though usually he remains in one place for three to four days, sometimes he moves every day, and only rarely does he remain anywhere longer than a week.

As Bangladesh becomes increasingly overpopulated, available pasture for pigs decreases, and as it is disappearing, so too is the profession of swineherding. For a long time swineherds were visible across the landscapes of Bangladesh, but now it is rare to get a glimpse of one.

All of these photographs were taken in the first half of 2009.

Pigs cross a marshy landscape in Gazipur, Bangladesh.

Just before he starts to tend the pigs, Sajib Chandra Das smokes a cigarette in Gazipur. He is sixteen and has been doing this job for the last three years.

In early morning Mymensingh, herdsman Lakshman Chandra Das tries to control his herd. One herdsman remains asleep inside, while the rest have gone to the nearby bushes to relieve themselves.

Pigs amble in Mymensingh while herdsmen eat breakfast, habituated to the smell of the animals.

Herdsman Guru Doyal Das separates piglets from pigs in Mymensingh, before taking the herd to the nearest pasture and bushes, where piglets cannot run with them.

Herdsman Nirmal Chandra Das tends pigs in a Mymensingh field.

The herd moves, as seen from the air. Herdsman Sajib Chandra Das tends it in Gazipur, while also trying to find a suitable place to tent for a few days. …

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