Art Omi, Ghent, USA, 2019

A quiet meditation.

With reference to Dalit literature, images of nature convey fruitfulness and abundance, but also of trauma related to labour and bondage. Nature is used to both justify the position of the oppressed and wield power over them. Memories of food, water, or the lack of these resources, are an extension of this deep, complex relationship with nature. As “cohabitations of love and sorrow, pain and joy, and alienation and attachment”[i], I found gravel an interesting medium to work with, each unique stone holding both a delicate beauty as well violence and pain, owing to its hard, sharp form.

Making this installation led to a range of conversations in the studio. They varied from false binaries of natural and man-made objects and experiences, hereditary caste-specific jobs of stone-breaking that live on today, rivers and roads as routes for movement, modernisation, and empowerment, as well as the creation and maintenance of boundaries (both tangible and not) and the faithful following of rules.

[i] Sharma, Nikhil, Caste & Nature: Dalits and Indian Environmental Politics, 2017, Oxford University Press