Maharaja Jayasinhji Jhala (Bapa)
I am the director of Temple University’s graduate and undergraduate tracks in the anthropology of visual communication, and of our visual communication media lab. I have been involved in interpreting culture on film and video for the past thirty years.
I was educated at St. Stephens College, Delhi, India, where I received a BA in English Literature (1968); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I received an MVS (1983); and at Harvard University, where I received a PhD (1991).
I have produced, directed, filmed and edited over fifteen well-received ethnographic films which illustrate the cultures of India, the USA and Vietnam and speak to issues in visual anthropology.
My films A Zenana and Tragada Bhavai: A Rural Theater Troupe of Gujarat (1981), Bharvad Predicament and Journey with Ganapati (1983), Forgotten Headhunters and Apatani Sacrifice (1978), Whose Paintings? (1995), Morning with Asch (1997), Conversation with a Collector: Dialogue with a Docent (1998), Close Encounters of No Kind (2002), ShaktiMa no Veh (2006), The Last Rites of the Honourable Mr. Rai (2009), and Rejuvenating the Land, Uniting the People (2009) have been seen by national and international audiences.
Information about several of my films is available from Documentary Educational Resources.
My written publications address issues of art and anthropology, nomadism, religious worship, indigenous interpretations of local culture, ethnographic filmmaking and its reception, photography, Hindu marriage, Rajput ideology and politics and Vietnamese rituals. My research is concerned with the interpretation of culture on various audio, visual and audio-visual media.
In addition, I am concerned with visual ethnographers, their biographies and their practice. At the present time I am working on several ethnographic films that address themes of transhumance, Hindu domestic worship, Rajput ideology and biography. Much of this material has been gathered and structured in collaborations with Temple graduate students and undergraduate students in field research and media lab participation in the USA, India and Vietnam, and in collaboration with individuals and institutions in these countries.
I am currently in the planning of The Halvad Revitalization Initiative which works to invigorate the 15th century citadel in the small town of Halvad in Gujarat and transform it into a beacon for inquiry in cultural and heritage immersion. I shall be directing all aspects of this initiative.
I had the privilege of being a fellow graduate student alongside Bapa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I also received an MVS.
Like Bapa, I also went on for my doctoral work at Harvard, although I studied Education and Social Policy. I am the founder of The Brick Project (click here for the website). The Brick Project was the subject of my doctoral thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
I also founder and executive director of The Educationalist (click here for the website).
I am a school teacher by profession and a former headmaster of a Massachusetts state charter middle school. I have also taught at New York inner-city schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.
As part of The Brick Project research and development on multicultural school curriculum, I taught at schools in England, Zimbabwe, Lithuania and several other countries. This included teaching at The Doon School in Dehra Dun, India, which happens to be Bapa’s old school!
The happy confluence between Bapa’s life and mine has this added dimension:
Although I was born in Kenya, my grandfather emigrated there from Gujarat.
My family is originally from Kathiawar on the Gulf of Kutch in India and I spoke Kutchi and Gujarati before I spoke English. I grew up on Gujarati folklore and food. I have written numerous stories based upon the oral storytelling tradition of my Gujarati ancestors including The Room in the Elephant (click here for the website). Bapa has encouraged and indulged me in this!
Here is an Afterword by Bapa for a trilogy of my stories (click here for Bapa’s Afterword).
The Halvad Revitalization Initiative which Bapa is planning and pioneering, is a joy and a privilege for me to participate in and it has my wholehearted support.