Gypsy Blood

I have been filming and photographing the Bede for about three years now in various part of Bangladesh. Bede or Baidani are an indigenous community of Bangladesh. Noted for living and travelling on boats they have come to be known as river gypsies. For many Bede groups, their women folk are the main bread winners. The Bede don't remain long at any given spot but travel constantly on the waterways and engage in their trades at various riverside villages and towns. However in recent years this is changing for a variety of reasons including, some commentators say, because of climate change.

The Bede community has several divisions depending on the type of trade a group specialises in. They have their own language, and they keep mostly to themselves except when interacting with the wider non-bede people to sell sundry items, catch snakes, extract `'worms" from teeth and practice their traditional medicinal system, which consists of cupping (drawing blood) or "Shinga tana" and selling medicinal products containing plant, animal or fish parts.

Despite their presence in bengali folk and popular culture, the Bede are a stigmatised and marginalised community. They have little access to education and health, and have only given the vote in the last 6 years.