Sowing Seeds 2011
(International Artist Village Residency)
Project: Chiman Dangi Curator: Vagaram Choudhary
Ek purani bat hai … (Once upon a time) …
My first encounter with the daily life and culture of the village Gelawas, made me ask myself what I could possibly contribute with in terms of visual art in this culturally rich and flourishing atmosphere. The art and craft was so well intergrated in their daily life, that it was impossible to isolate it as an independent aspect of their society. Every item, from the local people’s clothing to their vehicles and tools, was neatly made and decorated, and radiated a profound meaningfullness that is gone in todays mass-produced reality. But, as everywhere in the world, the people of Gelawas are more and more becoming a part of the modernised way of living, with mobile phones and TVs and all that comes with the influence of mass media. This made me think of their immaterial heritage. I guessed that they would still have an oral tradition of storytelling, especially since many of the elderly, at least the women, were illiterate. What would happen to all their stories as the young generation gets so much input from new media? With the help of people who spoke marwadi, I started collecting local fables and fairytales.
After having some of them translated, I learned that in one of the stories, the core moment is when a woman discovers a small poem written on her shawl. This triggered me to use a local technique of embroidery to embody the poem, and actually write it on a shawl. It was conducted with the help of several girls from the village. Another story contained a poem that inspired me to write it like a climbing plant on a local kind of walking cane. A third story, which I found particularly good, had as its protagonist a man who was driving a bullock cart. As there in Gelawas is a tradition of decorating tractor carts with painted motifs and patterns, I thought one of these contemporary carts would be a suitable surface through which the story could be communicated. Thanks to the generous owner, I got access to a cart onto which the whole story was painted in the local language, marwadi. Now people would be able to read the local story on an item that they would be using on a daily basis. In addition to these three stories that I had visually elaborated, I had recordings of many more. These where put together in a looped sound piece that was put inside the tool box under the cart for people to listen to on the day of the exhibition. All in all my project dealed with already established traditions and crafts, connecting the immaterial culture with the material one.
Tribute to Water
Positive and negative are opposites, and also complementary. With Tribute, I want to show the balance between the contrasts. Besides that, I combine my Western or global concepts with the local possibilities.
Every year, Rajasthan faces the problem of a deficiency of water and, sometimes even the lack of clean water. In the dry season, for months no rain is falling and rivers run dry. In the Netherlands, in contrary, there is plenty of water. For a country that produces so many vegetables, fresh and clean water is of great importance. But there is something else. The Netherlands is situated bellow sea-level. We therefore need to be well protected against a too high sea level and flooded rivers. So, water possesses a good and an evil side. These opposite characteristics of water are represented in this temporary installation. The Indian river of Ganges is an holy river. I chose to visualise this river. The curves of the river Ganges are drawn on the temple floor both in actual and mirrored shape. from the source of the river in the Himalayas till the estuary in Bangladesh.
Beautifully coloured lines of fabric are connecting these two images of the Ganges.
There are eight lines, representing the eight times you can or maybe have to decide between good and bad. The figure ‘8’ symbolises infinity, comparable with the water of the river, also a continuous flow, from the mountains to the sea to her source in the mountains. A cycle of life.
Tribute is put together with locally available, recycled materials. With a few kids, I was collecting fabrics lying around the houses, when I was invited in one of the houses. In exchange for some pictures and stories about my country, the villagers gave me a bag full of colourful leftovers of cloth for my artwork. For some days, I was working intensively. And from these small pieces of cloth, I made over twenty meters of colourful, decorated ribbons. Knotting the pieces of fabric was a very meditative activity and my personal tribute. I could not directly find a proper location for the work. One morning, I made a walk through the village and visited the temple near the village square. By coincidence, I met the priest of the temple and we had a small chat. I explained my proposal for the Sowing Seeds project. And then, he offered me to do the temporary installation in the temple. I chose the place were water is collected in a subterranean reservoir. I felt honoured and happy as the art piece had found its beautiful site-specific location in a natural way.
Aishwarya Suultania (India)
Gelavas ki kahani, Gelavas ki zubani…………….
I chose to start painting spontaneously in various locations and through that capture the curiosity and interest of the people, to get them involved in the act of painting, creating, documenting the saga of their daily life and experiences, using locally available materials such as old used earthen pots, colours and dyes available there. This collaboration, in the process of creation, brought people together, to talk, to communicate and interact with each other, creating almost an atmosphere of celebration and festivity where all the daily chores are performed along with singing dancing and creating. Such has been the culture of art and life in India, where the two are never separate from each other.
With this direct engagement and communication I also took the opportunity to create awareness about the importance of knowing and cultivating our cultural heritage and regional languages (which we are soon losing to a single homogenized world), recycling and reusing the old material to transform into something totally new and different, as a necessity for social development. These are the concerns that I feel strongly for. These are the things that I understand and believe in.
The painted pots were then collected from various houses and taken by children to be installed in sand and in various forms of earth. The children enjoyed making spontaneous drawings in sand. It was as if the pots, and the sand had come to life with the magical touch of the children’s fingertips upon themselves.
Thereafter in that gypsy land where water and means of livelihood are scarce, the earthen pot, as if by some power had acquired another dimension. It was not merely an object, it was an object made from earth, had been used for storing/carrying water, had lived its life and had once again been brought to life by the drawings of the villagers…transformed….now seeking their new life and journey. The pot itself symbolic and representative of a particular time and culture had now manifested into a being, a person seeking a new journey whilst wanting to always stay connected with the roots, the earth, the soil, the water and the stories……….
These new beings were then carried by their creators to the different squares (churahas) of the village, in the form of a mobile exhibition where the people came out of their home to witness their own echoes and reflections of life.
collection of metal
cubes placed on the
ground of a desertic
field confronting the
visual aesthetics of
the rural and the most
Outdoor installation-performance, consisting of a white rectangular
shape and a catapult which is used to hit the shape with
clay balls filled with pigments.
In this installation I explore again the world of the absurd, the non sense of the human behavior, the relationship we have with the nature. it is also a personal reflection on the change of the creative environment.
Hetal Chudasama (India)
Beyond the Red Sphere
Beyond the Red Sphere is small site-specific work done in an under constructed toilet of the village of Gelawas Rajasthan. it comprises 20 portraits of veiled young married women from Gelawas ,photo print on block of wood, is glued on the walls of this narrow rectangular box of size 3 feet width and 8 feet height with no door.
During the residency since it has invited artist from different parts of country had already provided a profound background of cultural mix in this remote village of India, which itself is a profound display of edge old traditional and cultural life, simple yet extremely complex.
Very common act during such an interaction did start with excitement of documenting and being documented, as availability of source of documenting is on hand “Cameras” it became the major focus all over. Thus the idea of real and unreal, existing and imaginary, permanent and momentary had constant take over during the exchange. While whole village is engaged in opening in its layers to the strange foreigner there were few who did display their custom of staying veiled even to the female photographer. As an Indian these layered gestures were not hard to understand but it had a different connotation in dialogue. Everything in the village seems to be perfectly operating, jobs and custom divided to man and women. It felt like a cultural harmony as while also talking about veil, here women wanted to be veiled and man would respect the custom as well.
My interruption as an artist and as a female was to still look in to this perfect harmony in this little place and find curiosity level beyond their cultural values, which does exist within them in their day to day life. As this veiled photographed was displayed in narrow box one has to go inside to have a closer look at it, Since these are hidden faces of the village, which are not common to be confronted by the male community other than their family members, the curiosity in their mind of women from their own surrounding took a strange path. Some got too interested to identify the face and some left after understanding there custom of not to look at their women. This simple gesture in its silent way had just a purpose to create a question and live it open to analyze. Every society in all over the part of the world has created customs and tradition to be followed by their community and biggest structure of this custom has been built by demonstrating customized behavior and values of their women. Thus the feminine stands as the core of society and this residency had also provided another opportunity since most of the artist were female it also created a very sharp contrast values ,women has been carrying in other part of the world. Thus the idea portraying veiled young women was an attempt to have encounter of this basic values as Indian female has been carrying , wrapped within those layers fragile yet extremely strong to be followed by.
Gelawas, a village hidden in the desert. For us “foreigners,” it’s a place lost in time, preserving ancient ways of life, following traditional rules, where beliefs are attached to many gods. The joy of life is reflected in the women’s colorful dresses, the smiles of the children, the serenity of the old men, the paintings on the walls, the rhythm of daily life, the beauty of the music and dances. Among the children running, the women carrying wood and water on their heads, the cows, the dogs, the trash, the sun and the dust of the desert … from time to time we hear the songs of the ringing mobile phones!
I was impressed by everything, especially the deep silence of the eyes and expressions of the old men. What do they think? What do they do?
I focused my art project on the old men and women, the grandparents of the village. I decided to make hand drawn portraits of them. I also collected stories of their families, traditions and way of lives.
I wanted to understand them, to capture with my pencil the expressions of their deep eyes, the severe map of their wrinkles, the traditional mustaches, the movement and folds of the turbans, the details of the women’s saris … I wanted to steal some of their knowledge, to listen to their silence, to look through their eyes to find answers to the questions that were turning in my head while sitting in front of them. What is in your mind Magnaramji? Gobar Ram? Shua Devi ? Please let me know!
We sat face-to-face in silence. How long? A lifetime maybe. I am curious, they are curious. I am serious, they are serious. I am excited, full of questions, impressed with their beautiful eyes. They are quiet and attentive. Hard life is written on their faces. The deep, expressive wrinkles give them a halo of wisdom.
While drawing, there were always children watching and people talking. What were they saying? Most often I came alone, without someone to translate. How I wished I could understand their words!
Drawing as an art project is the simplest method of communication, as minimal and essential as this village in the desert. In the end I collected a group of pencil portraits in my notebook, handmade memories of Gelawas! When I gave them a copy of their portraits, it was a special moment, each of us feeling we have known each other for a long time! The secrets are still there, in their minds and hidden in the drawings.
Old people’s lives are special. They are free from daily tasks. They have authority in family matters where their voices are highly respected. Their sons and daughters look after them. Old women help to bring up the grandchildren. Two times a day the old men gather in small groups around the village to celebrate an important ritual: to drink opium tea and smoke pure tobacco in special pipes. Time passes, life becomes easy, painless; the stoned faces of the old men involved in this traditional addiction to morphine exude calm and deep expressions.
What about the future of Gelawas? Children learn ancestral traditions together with modern education from school, young people work the land during the rainy season and then they go to work in the cities. Tradition requires sons to follow the tasks of the parents as the old men had done. Will the young ones follow? Will they come back to the village and keep growing vegetables with their own hands? … Gelawas friends, I will go back to see you again !!!!!!!
For A World Without Waste
I entered the Sowing Seeds program free to form new ideas, imagining that I might wish for them, I carried in my luggage – 2 sets of white solar powered LED fairy lights and 4 white general waste rubbish bags. I wanted to work intuitively; referring to my current visual research project ‘For A World Without Waste’ mingled with my experiences of being in Gelawas village. The outcome of this experimentation was a series of 2 actions: The 1st was a plastic rubbish clean up project (co-initiated by fellow artist Ray King) It was my idea to create and facilitate the use of 160 special trash bags, sewn from old sari scraps by Mafi Devi (a village tailor). Gelawas children used these bags to collect 377 bags of plastic rubbish. After the action all bags were gathered, hand-washed and left for the village in a farewell installation stretching above a local laneway. The second action (existing in numerous failed attempts) ‘Spiriting Waste’ – was a performance / live installation piece involving local performer Asharam Kumar and a sacred cow. Both cow and dancer wore solar panel necklaces, powering the lights. Miraculously amidst the throng of villagers, animals and dust clouds this project came to life within a series of “almost, almost, almost attempts” and now my documentation is being edited into a new video work.
‘For A World Without Waste’ irrespective (or perhaps because) of accumulated failures gathering up in the corners of dusty cow hovels, where I frequented upon successive sunrise/sunset journeys to install the solar powered general waste coat in an exercise of ‘Spiriting Waste’ upon the back of a sacred village cow (any gentle cow will do) to the tinkling ring of Asharam Kumar’s bell clad footsteps as he tentatively stepped out, garnished in a belt of solar lights and a rubbish balloon headdress.
Beyond intuitive visual compulsion, the idea to decorate a village cow and performance artist with rubbish bags, solar lights and locally gathered synthetic welcome necklaces evolved from the moment I arrived, several days earlier in India. Before Gelawas, I came across many a sacred cow, feeding from random plastic filled roadside rubbish piles in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Pushkar. Pushkar being the site of India’s famous Brahma temple (that is Brahma, with the creative power to solve mankind’s woes!) has gone as far as banning plastic bags because local cows were dying from ingested plastics, an interesting parallel to the situation in the world’s oceans with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all manner of plastic ingesting fish, birdlife and marine mammal species who’s ill fate is equally measured by quantities of plastic particles served in a gyrating current of plasticy ocean soup. Was this in fact the beginning of my thought process, reflected in the scribbled, out of control spiral drawn carefully in henna on a friend’s open palm at camp? There is sense of ritual unfolding in my works with Sowing Seeds; in the combination of minds, customs, colours, life and feeling.
Letícia Bertagna (Brazil)
Empty words is a small publication made from a collection of words provided by the participating artists. The lists were collected during five nights of the residence in Gelawas and guidance given to each participant was to choose a single word related to your day living. After, thinking about words and their possible meanings, I conducted a series of photographs that have characters like the villagers and the elements of the place.
The notebook that accompanied me during the Gelawas days has on its first page the following sentence spoken by brazilian artist Elida Tessler, “the writing is through the body.” Actions during the residence was conducted by this phrase, which acquired a much larger sense in that both speech and writing reached its strength throughout the body. The body feels and thinks, gives powers and means to every word.
The experience of another form of contact, in which the gestures and glances were fundamental to the understanding became an investigation of the possibilities of language. Thus, during the period I was interested in thinking about the relationship between place, the events, the words and images, and its various transformations and interactions.
The title came from the observation of the daily local newspaper, where there is also the cover of a small publication. The crossword puzzle still empty reflects the understanding that the word is a set of letters that alone does not cover anything. That each name is much more than what normally means or represents.
The proposal to put words and images emerges as a kind of game, in which one who is willing to complete the blank with one of the suggested words is creating its own meaning for each image, and thus also creating a new universe for the word. Each will have a different book, based on the experience of words that pass through your own body.
My ideas for my residency in Rajasthan were to use sunlight to connect to the history of astronomy and color / mirror clothing.
After I was selected, I saw a story about the book, “Tantra Song”, of tantric paintings from the 17th century collected by a French poet. These paintings have a strong spiritual and natural presence that inspired the work I did in Galawas.
My projects use sunlight — reflected onto shaded wall surfaces from mirrors that were fixed to adjacent walls or columns. The light moves with the sun and the reflections change with the seasons. The reflections are meant to mark a time of day at a time of year. The reflections are to be painted so the light will illuminate colors made of pure pigments.
My arrival in Galawas was unlike anything I have ever encountered. The genuine beauty of the villagers, especially the children is something I will always remember. The sparkle of their eyes and the sweet smiles. The dancing girls in the evening were of a beauty that words cannot describe.
Straight away, I made friends with the children and we visited the elementary and middle schools where I chose sites for installations. I wanted to relate my art projects to historical Indian artwork with reflective glass and mirrors, and also to incorporate scientific themes, like astronomy and astrology, relating to the sculptural instruments found at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur. With all of these elements of Indian culture that fascinated me, I worked on several different projects. I faced many challenges.
Gelawas Art Center
(collaborative art project)
The villagers’ skill at incorporating beauty into function, inspired us to explore these activities in abstract terms. Closely observing and documenting daily processes in Gelawas such as preparing opium tea, or wrapping a turban, we decided to apply the villager’s approach, and create art out of these purely functional structures. With outsider’s perspective, we saw the artistic potential of the sounds, colours and rhythms inherent in each daily activity.
The reinterpretation of one particularly widespread process became our focus- the dry season domestic activity of preparing papad (a thin, edible cracker) out of locally cultivated mung beans. Incorporating the concept of recycling and sustainability, we collected broken, abandoned ceramic pots found around the village, and modelled membranes of translucent mung bean dough over the damaged areas of the container. We arranged these sculptures into a cyclical formation and lit them from within using local candles, thus creating an ephemeral and space-transforming lantern installation. The rhythmic movement and percussive sounds generated by the multi-step process of turning mung beans into papad were utilized by both artists to create a sound and movement performance that accompanied the light installation.
The core concept of our collaboration is that it is important to recognise and extend art and creativity in everyday life. We also quickly realized that the meaning of the term ‘art’ is audience-dependant, although some form of it exists in all societies. Carried by both these ideas, we renamed a community building within the village the Gelawas Art Center, announcing our manifest to the village that this was a space to be utilized for creative, imaginative activity beyond the realm of pure functionality. Our performative installation demonstrated our own idea of artistic expression, and a possible way of using the Art Center. Villagers were then asked to bring any creative object, ready or hand-made, to the space. The next day, weapons, wood carvings, drawings and domestic tools were brought to the space. We curated these objects, alongside the works of other international Sewing Seeds artists Harald Schole and Elida Brenna Linge into a joint exhibition exploring cross cultural definitions of art.
By creating a home for existing and potential art and art processes within Gelawas, we hoped to demonstrate its value and encourage its continuation. Thus, a space for creativity was opened, but this space could be treated also in more conceptual terms.
Snežana Golubovic (Serbia)
(The Future of Gelawas)
I went to Gelawas with the idea of making a sound piece which was to be presented at the end of the Residency. This performance sound-installation was to be performed not only in the presence of the international and local artists and villagers but with their engagement as well. But the moment I entered the village, I saw the children… their eyes, their smiles… I felt their warmth… and was fascinated by their beauty and joy.
Every morning I took my sound equipment and went in search of the sounds of Gelawas… and was usually accompanied by some kids… sometimes with lots of them… They wanted to join me, to help, to show me something special in their village, to bring me to the places they liked, or to take me to their homes, to talk, or just to spend some time together… They sung for me, they danced… I used simple words in English, and they repeated them and taught me some basic words in their language… They laughed when I made mistakes, which I often did. They made jokes, ran and jumped around, and played with me…
Spontaneously I started to make portraits of the children of Gelawas. Snap shots. Just one or two shots, never more than five or six…. without worrying about composition, or light… or „art“… just following my heart and capturing those moments… their faces, the sparkle in their eyes, their moods…
And suddenly this „game“ – in part provoked by their repetition every time they saw me: „Photo! Photo!“ – inspired me to think about a long-term project, which I am planning to develop and create during the next ten years.
The first series of 108 portraits of children and teenager, taken during the ten days of the SOWING SEEDS Residency, is the precious initiation and beginning of this work.
108 (The Future of Gelawas) is a project of the heart. It is about and with Usha, Manju, Maneesha, Resam, Samda, Anita, Dathu, Leela, Geeta, Privanka, Mapi, Shravan, Rekha, Sangita, Surendra, Harshan, Samundar, Ramesh, Behraram, Ganput, Sanjana, Kaluram, Kamlesh, Payal, Mapi, Mukesh, Khetam, Prakash, Ashok, Priya, Ruhul, Khushbu, Kavita, Santu, Rekha, Anita, Daku, Mapi, Usha, Kushan, Champa, Puja, Vime, Shaitan, Muresh, Ashok, Vikram, Shravan, Sanjay, Gendha, Sajjan, Jalam, Shravan, Hitesh, Dipu, Pushpa, Shravan, Lila, Girl with a Lamb, Arun, Khusal, Ankit, Viskun, Anita, Manju, Manisha, Saroj, Mapi, Kavita, Bhanvari, Krish, Khusbru, Mapi, Mapi, Jitendra, Mapi, Gordon, Nirma, Gorind, Chamaram, Bhagirath, Megharam, Suresh, Samram, Prakash, Prem, Bhoparam, Khoosbu, Priyanka, Puspa, Lila, Puspa, Mehendra, Raju, Ramaram, Purant, Pramot, Mehendra, Pooja, Kamli, Bahadur, Naspat, Paras, Shabha, Jiksom, Pooja, Mnuba, Manju.
And it is dedicated to all the children & youth of Gelawas.
Ekaterina Kravtsova (Russia)
In the village Gelawas, India I explored life of local girls and women.
Rajasthan is the most conservative state in India. The girls often don’t go to school and can’t speak English, the second official language in India. Mostly at the age of 18 the girls get married. Therefore they don’t have much time for childhood. I met girls of different ages and all of them dream about marriage, but no one girl knows who will be her husband. This important decision is taken by the oldest man of a family, who usually smokes opium and drinks opium tea during all days. After the marriage women are not required to show their faces or talk to men. Usually woman can’t even write her name. Married woman makes a tattoo on her arm with husband’s name because if she is lost she could show her arm and everybody knows where to deliver her.
Dance is a very important part of local culture, every girl can and loves dancing. I asked girls from 5 to 17 years old to dance and the older girl the less free time or space on a screen she has. I found very interesting also how seriously girls prepare for each picture, which I took. It was like a ritual and reminded me how they prepare for wedding. They use the same poses every time and never were tired of repeating. The piece in my film, where girls are prepare for taking photo is about Krishna and gopies, caw herding girls. This story about unconditional devotion and love is a favorite story for village girls. As soundtrack for my video I used wedding songs, which I recorded in the village.
Village people live according their customs and habits and don’t want to change anything. As a reference of this kind of time conservation and ritual action at the same time at the beginning of my film I showed a play, which we did with local girls in a desert. This is a play of Soviet children, which was called SECRETS while we put some beautiful garbage into the hole and covered with glass and earth than, making it like a sarcophagus.