While pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, Zia Islam's love for linguistics, history, anthropology, and photography led to a fusion of these passions. In 1995, his interests paved the path to independently research neo-fascism within the German political circles for the History Department at Texas A&M University. His photographic endeavors have taken him from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland to Bosnian refugees living in Croatia, where he was employed by a grass-roots relief agency funded by United Nations. Racing against time, he also spent several summers capturing the architectural remains of the once shattered East Berlin, which was being renovated at lighting speeds after reunification. In 1997, while doing social work in his home state of Assam, India, Zia Islam was intrigued by the tribal populations of the region and soon began to photographically document their lives. His interest in photography and his love of tribal cultures led him to spearhead the Aienla Project. After completing his degree in 1999, he continues to dedicate himself to researching and preserving the heritage of tribal cultures.
Gwendolyn Hylsop is a PhD student in linguistics at the University of Oregon specializing in documentary and descriptive linguistics of languages in Northeast India and Bhutan. While finishing her B.S. with distinction in linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she began the fieldwork in rural Mexico that would eventually shape her personal and professional purpose. She firmly believes that mankind has much to gain from the knowledge interwoven in the world's languages, and as a linguist, her goal is to preserve as much as possible of these languages. She has conducted fieldwork on a variety of Zapotec in Oaxaca, Mexico and produced a description of its phonology. Her passion for languages extends especially into Asia. She learned and has taught Hindi, has been studying Mandarin Chinese, and conducted fieldwork on White Hmong, producing a description of its classifying system. She wrote her MA thesis (University of Oregon 2006) on the Phonetics and Phonology of Kurtoep, a Tibeto-Burman language of Bhutan. She has presented her work at a number of conferences and has published on Zapotec, Kurtoep and the area of tonogenesis. Gwendolyn's website
While obtaining a Degree in Law in northeast India, Helen Dawngliani met Zia Islam who happened to be photographing the Mizo tribe in 1997. A Mizo tribal herself, she became a key contributor to the project by assisting him as a translator and was a staunch advocate for preserving the traditions of her people. Her undying support and dedication to the tribal cultures of northeast India led her to become one of the co-founders of the Aienla Project.
Also having lived in northeast India, Tehmina Islam developed an interest in human rights and the cultural plight of indigenous peoples across the world from an early age. She began her human rights work with Amnesty International and Students for a Free Tibet in high school and remained active with these two organizations throughout college. After completing her Bachelor of Science in International Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, she lived in Kenya for a year, working for a maternal health program. Upon her return in 2006, she completed midwifery school and became a Licensed Midwife (LM) and Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). She has a home birth midwifery practice in Madison, Wisconsin and continues to stay involved in the human rights struggle.
To contact the Aienla Project by email, please send your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org