August 20, 2019 · 6:58 am
When I show these works of art by Jitish Kallat to kids at the Winnipeg Art Gallery they always think they must be star maps. The children are quite surprised when I tell them they are really raindrop maps or designs. The artist Jitish Kallat calls them Rain Studies. He makes them during the monsoon season in Mumbai, India.
Kallat uses watercolor pencils to make dark circles on woven paper. Then during rain showers he steps outside and holds up the paper to the sky, allowing rain to fall on it for a certain number of breath cycles. A breath cycle is breathing in and then out. The raindrops leave an imprint on the dark circle and he sprays it to preserve it and then wipes the paper dry. In these three pieces, you can see how the length of time Kallat remains outside makes a difference in the designs. Kallat has noted the number of breath cycles he held each circle up to the rain. The first one was for two breath cycles, the second for four and the third for seven. Kallat uses a BC abbreviation and he pencils in the number of breath cycles by each dark circle. He also records the time and date of each rain study. During some of the rain studies, it must have been raining quite hard and in others, quite lightly. The images do look very starlike, almost like astronomical charts. Kallat says in a New York Times interview that nature makes the artwork. He doesn’t.
Kallat’s Rain Studies are part of the current Vision Exchange exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It closes in just a couple of weeks so if you haven’t seen it already you want to be sure to go before summer ends.
Other posts about the Vision Exchange exhibit……..
Don’t Forget About Us
Sports Equipment and Salt
August 9, 2019 · 6:37 am
My husband Dave had his heart set on seeing a wild tiger when we visited India in 2008, so we planned a safari in Ranthambore National Park. The temperature was a chilly four degrees as we clambered into our open-air jeep at six in the morning to begin our tiger hunt. I was happy to be wedged in tightly between Dave and a banker from London named Sidney. The two men on either side of me blocked the wind and helped keep me warm.
When we visited in 2008 it wasn’t easy to see a tiger in the wild in India. There were only about 1000 left in the whole country. That’s because even in protected areas poachers continued to kill tigers and sell them to Chinese vendors. Their clients used tiger organs for making traditional medicines. The tiger population was also dwindling because people were cutting down trees for fuel, destroying the tiger’s forest habitat.
Despite this, everyone said Ranthambore was the place where we had the best chance of seeing a tiger. We spent three and a half hours looking for one. Our jeep stopped several times so our driver could talk to tiger-trackers who roam Ranthambore looking for the elusive beasts. Despite their best advice, the closest we came to seeing a tiger was to see the paw prints of one in the sand.
When we were in India over a decade ago a new initiative had just been started to increase the tiger population. I was so happy to read this week that it has been successful. India now has nearly 3000 tigers triple that of the 2008 numbers when we visited. By 2022 they hope to have nearly doubled the current population. Increased forest cover and stricter enforcement of conservation laws have made a huge difference.
I am not sure if I am ready for another pre-dawn freezing tiger safari, so if you’d like to volunteer to accompany my husband on his next, hopefully, more successful hunt for a tiger in India, I’d be glad to give you my seat in the jeep.
India Assaults the Senses
The Heroes Walk
August 8, 2019 · 6:02 am
Gauri Gill is a photographer whose work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in their Vision Exchange exhibit.
In 2013 Gill visited the community of Ganjad in the north-western part of India. She was doing art with the school children there. An artist in Ganjad named Rajesh Vangad told Gauri Gill about traditional Warli painting, an art form that may have started more than 5000 years ago. The paintings were traditionally done only with white pigment made by grinding rice into a powder and mixing it with water. The women of the tribe created the artwork on the walls of their adobe houses. The paintings showed the social life and the daily routines of the Warli tribe. Warli art uses mainly circles, triangles, and squares.
After learning about Warli art from Rajesh Vangad, Gauri Gill decided to photograph him at different places in the village and invite him to draw Warli art on her photos. Here Rajesh stands in front of the community school. His Warli art covers the photo.
A closer look at the Warli drawings Rajesh Vangad did reveal that he depicted children in the classroom and on the grounds of the school participating in all kinds of activities.
Children writing the alphabet
Children in the science lab
Children on computers
Children doing math
Children on swings
Children having lunch
The school-age visitors I take on tours of the Winnipeg Art Gallery love looking for all these different scenes in the artwork. I have included only a few of the dozens of small scenes in the piece entitled School from Gill and Vangad’s The Flight series.
I always invite the children to use the Warli technique to make drawings of their own depicting themselves doing something they enjoy. Their artwork is simply delightful.
This girl drew herself painting a picture
Here another WAG visitor showed himself playing basketball
This girl loves golf
This one loves ballet
And here is a soccer player
Warli art is for everyone and the children love its simplicity and the ease with which they can create portraits with white chalk on black construction paper.
There are several other pieces by Rajesh Vangad and Gauri Gill on display in the Vision Exchange Exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Why not come and see them and then try making some Warli art of your own?
Don’t Forget About Us
Sports Equipment and Salt
June 18, 2019 · 6:33 am
In May of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology in the House of Commons for the 1914 actions of the Canadian government when they refused entry into Canada to nearly 400 British citizens, mostly Sikh men, who had traveled from India to Vancouver on board a Japanese ship called The Komagata Maru. After spending nearly two months in the Vancouver harbor the ship was forced to return to India at naval gunpoint. British soldiers boarded The Komagata Maru upon its arrival in Calcutta and a riot ensued during which twenty passengers died and many were arrested. The Canadian immigration rules at the time discriminated against people from South East Asia, rather favoring immigrants from England, Europe, and the United States. In 1914 British Columbia was home to some 2000 people from India mostly Sikhs from the Punjab who had come to work there. Other citizens who knew very little about India, its historical achievements, religious diversity, or rich culture, worried they would eventually become outnumbered by Indian immigrants. The Canadian government had put all kinds of rules and regulations in place to make it very difficult for people from India to enter Canada but the passengers on board The Komagata Maru claimed the rules didn’t apply to them because they were British citizens. Their pleas were rejected.
Don’t Forget About Us by Jagdeep Raina 2014
I learned about The Komagata Maru because of a current installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that is part of our Vision Exchange exhibit. It contains work by Jagdeep Raina an artist from Guelph Ontario who used archival documents from Kashmiri and Punjabian Sikh diaspora communities as inspiration. His mixed media exhibition includes a drawing based on a 1914 photograph of men who had traveled on board The Komagata Maru. He has entitled it Don’t Forget About Us.
Wikipedia photo of the passengers on board the Komagata Maru
In his apology in the House of Commons in 2016 Prime Minister Trudeau said that The Komagata Maru passengers were no different than millions of other immigrants to Canada. They were simply seeking refuge and a better life for their families. They had much to contribute to Canada and we failed them utterly.
Nimrat Randhawa, the great, great granddaughter of Gurdit Singh the man who organized the attempt by the Komagata Maru passengers to gain entry into Canada. The photo was taken at the time of Canada’s formal apology to the Komagata Maru passengers.
During his apology the Prime Minister urged people not to forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community in Canada. Jagdeep Raina’s artwork is a good reminder of the Prime Minister’s request. You can read more about the Komagata Maru incident on the website of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
A Carpet Conversation About the Universe
Sports Equipment and Salt
June 11, 2019 · 6:07 am
At the Three Gorges Dam. I am furthest to the left.
When I visited the Three Gorges Dam site in China I discovered this sculpture showing farmers wrestling. It was meant to depict how for thousands of years farmers have had to fight the flooding waters of the Yangtze. I immediately thought of that art piece in China when I saw….. this artwork at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is called Farmer is A Wrestler. It was created by Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. It is part of the current Vision Exchange exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The artists wanted to show the struggle it is to farm in India today. In an interview, they talk about the crippling debt of many farmers in the Punjab region in northern India and how their financial crisis has sometimes led to the farmers’ committing suicide.
The sculpture I saw in China was related to the Yangtze River. In their installation, Thukral and Tagra have included light fixtures that echo the shape of the River Beas which flows through the state of Punjab.
I’ve written before about how new texts become meaningful when we can connect them to previous texts we have experienced. The installation Farmer is a Wrestler took on new meaning for me when I thought about the similar artwork I had seen in another Asian country.
Now We’ve Been to Sister Cities
Three Gorges Yangtze River Project
May 31, 2019 · 5:20 am
Did you know you are looking at a conversation? This beautiful wool carpet is woven through with metalized thread. It is called The Necessity of Infinity and was created by the Raqs Media Collective consisting of artists Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Their carpet serves as a stage for a conversation between two great Persian scholars who lived in the 10th century. The silver threads in the carpet represent the words of Ibn Sina the author of more than 450 books most of them about medicine and healing. He is often called the Father of Modern Medicine. Iba Sina was also very interested in, and knowledgeable about, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy.
The golden threads in the carpet represent the words of Al Beruni. He studied mathematics, astronomy, geography, religion, and history. Among other things, he researched how the earth spins on its axis and figured out the lines of longitude and latitude for more than a thousand cities. He also wrote a pharmacy book in which he described every single known medicine of his time.
The two men carried on a vibrant correspondence with one another over a period of some two years discussing their different understandings of what Aristotle had to say about the universe. They argued about whether all the planets had gravity and rotated. Al Beruni who lived in present-day Turkmenistan believed that human beings were all alone in the universe but Ibn Sina who lived some 250 miles away in present-day Uzbekistan argued that there could be many worlds other than our own. There is no evidence the two men ever met in person but The Raqs Media Collective imagined they did.
When The Necessity of Infinity was on display at the Sharjah Museum in the United Arab Emirates two actors dressed as Beruni and Sina actually carried on a conversation about the universe on the carpet.
The Necessity of Infinity is part of the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Sports Equipment and Salt
May 28, 2019 · 6:06 am
This half circle of salt that features marble sports equipment is part of an installation by artist Sarindar Dhaliwal in the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The cricket bat, field hockey stick, and badminton racket represent sports that were brought to India in their modern form by British colonizers although a game very similar to field hockey was played in the 17th century in the Punjab state of India called khido khundi. Khido referred to the woolen ball and khundi to the stick.
A team from India wins the Under 19 World Cricket Championships in 2018
India has become a formidable force in the world of cricket. India’s elite took up the sport in order to build relationships with the British and its popularity spread to the general population.
India’s national women’s cricket team
This led the way for the creation of some superstar cricketers and India’s international success in the sport.
Why is the sports equipment lying on a bed of salt? In 1882 India was under British rule and the British passed a Salt Act which banned Indians from collecting or selling salt. Salt had to be bought from the British and they added a heavy tax to each purchase.
Gandhi was joined by thousands on his Salt March.
In 1930 to protest the salt tax Indian leader Gandhi led a salt march. Thousands of people walked down to the sea to collect salt from the salt flats there.
Gandhi bends down to pick up a lump of salt
Gandhi was arrested after he bent down to pick up a small lump of salt. Gandhi’s actions led to peaceful protest demonstrations all over India. The British police force responded and in the end, some 60,000 protesters were arrested. Although India would not gain independence from the British until 1947 the salt march and the civil disobedience it inspired gave Gandhi a seat at the table in the discussions about India’s future.
Salt and sports equipment. Two symbols of India’s past as a colony of the British but also symbols of a future when India would control its own natural resources and make its own name in the sports world.
A Different Kind of Snow Angel
India Assaults the Senses
The Heros Walk
March 1, 2019 · 7:08 am
One of good things about watching the Oscars this year was learning about the film Period. End of Sentence. It won the award for best documentary short subject. I watched it on Netflix the very next day. The film was the brainchild of a group of highschool students in Los Angeles and their teacher Melissa Berton who wanted to tell the story of young girls in India who don’t have access to affordable sanitary pads. Because of this the girls stay home from school when they have their period or suffer serious health problems because they use dirty rags or sometimes even ash instead of sanitary napkins.
Set in rural India the film brings to light the deep stigma still attached to menstruation in much of the country. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Guneet Monga the film also highlights the work of Arunachalam Muruganantham an Indian inventor who created a simple machine to make affordable biodegradable sanitary napkins. In the film the inventor teaches a group of women in the village of Hapur to make the napkins with his machine and they sell them and use the money to finance their own education and improve their lives. Arunachalam Muruganantham is inspired by these girls trying to build a future for themselves. He says “the strongest creature on earth is not the elephant, not the tiger, but the girl.”
After watching Period. End of Sentence I also watched Padman on Netflix. It is an inspiring movie which tells the story of inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham and shows how his sanitary pad machine is enabling women all over India to have access to affordable personal hygiene products and in the process helping them to become independent, educated and empowered. Padman is certainly worth watching as well.
At the Oscars Melissa Berton accepted her award saying “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Her film as well as Padman profile an important initiative. You can support it at The Pad Project which is directly related to the two films. Here is a list of ten other organizations that have similar initiatives in other countries.
Meeting the Street Children of Dehli
Love in a Lunch Box
September 18, 2018 · 5:08 am
Tonight my book club at the West Kildonan Library will be discussing The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. Shafak, a Turkish author, says her book was inspired by this image of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent which has an elephant in the background. The print created in 1559, during the same time period as the events in the book, is by a German artist Melchior Lorck and is in the British Museum.
Here are four things I found interesting about the novel The Architect’s Apprentice.
Mihrimah Sultan is the protagonist’s love interest in the book. Here she is portrayed by Italian artist Cristofan dell’Altissimo who lived at the same time as Mihrimah did.
Although the protagonist Jahan is a fictional character author Elif Shafak has populated her novel with other characters who are real. Jahan is an apprentice to Sinan the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan oversaw the building of some 500 structures and nearly 200 of them are still standing. Jahan’s love interest is the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. She is a historical figure as well. So are the three sultans who are in power during the time Jahan serves Sinan the Royal Architect. In one section of the book Jahan and another apprentice go to visit Michelangelo in Italy.
There are many thought provoking reflections in the book. Here are a three I really appreciated.
“If you carry a sword, you obey the sword, not the other way round. Nobody can hold a weapon and keep their hands clear of blood at the same time.”
“……Jahan understood his master’s secret resided ……… in his ability to adapt to change and calamity, and to rebuild himself, again and again, out of the ruins. Sinan was made of flowing water. When anything blocked his course, he would flow under, around, above it, however he could; he found his way through the cracks, and kept flowing forward”
“Stones stay still. A learner never.”
Jahan’s closest relationship in life is with an elephant named Chota. Jahan arrives in Istanbul as Chota’s keeper and immediately sets about saving Chota’s life. I am not necessarily a big animal lover and will admit that I’ve never understood the deep love some people have for their pets, but I was quite taken with the way Jahan and Chota care for one another, know each other so well, come to one another’s defense, respect each other and provide each other with solace and comfort at crucial times.
And finally at the end of the book Jahan travels to Agra India to help design and build the dome for the Taj Mahal. I have been to the Taj Mahal and my husband made me pose for this photo where I am appearing to hold up the magnificent structure by the top of the dome.
The Taj Mahal At Dawn
Do Buildings Have Souls?
A Story Board in a Painting
April 5, 2017 · 6:08 am
A woman whose face has been damaged irreparably by acid gives a lesson in make up application.
We went to the Cannes Lions Commercials show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. There were many excellent advertisements in the line up but the images I saw in two are still with me many days later.
The commercials featured a woman named Reshma who has a face grotesquely scarred by an acid attack. In the first she gives a lesson in applying lipstick and in the second she shows viewers how to put on eyeliner.
The ads draw attention to the fact that in India there are more than a thousand acid attacks on women a year. Women have acid thrown in their faces as revenge for rejection of a marriage proposal or sexual advance. Some attacks are due to religious differences, conflicts over property or are gang related.
I found a website called Stop Acid Attacks that details the problem and presents demands for stopping it. Some hopeful signs are a Supreme Court decision that hospitals in India are obligated to provide care to victims and victims will receive some compensation. Last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited with victims of acid attacks on a trip to India thus drawing much-needed attention to the issue.
Acid attack victim
Acid attacks don’t only happen in India they are a problem throughout South East Asia.
India Assaults the Senses