Bengali in the Bush

2016 Intercessions Lab BigCi Bilpin, Australia

Hosted by Alan Schacher and Julie Vulcan

IFor this site specific installation in Bilpin, as part of a residency with base metal, I constructed a shelter using a pink mosquito net gifted to me by my late aunt from Kolkata, evoking memories of my childhood in India, where, at times, we would sleep outdoors under mosquito nets. I had smeared my body with a sandal-wood-like paste called thanaka, used in Burma and by my Burmese mother throughout her childhood and early adult life to protect the skin from the sun. I felt I was cloaked in the essence of both these women who were central to my history, and whose wisdom and love nurtured me throughout my life till their passing. I used the paste, mixed with water (from a nearby bucket) as a natural alternative to sun- screen, and it worked perfectly, keeping the body cool from the harsh sun. I also used a pile of branches, referencing an “action” from an earlier exercise where I attempted to balance the body with twigs and branches while balancing on a rock. As I lay within my (sentimental) created refuge, while the sun blazed above me, and a warm breeze rustled and swayed the draped fabrics around my pink netted sanctuary, my thoughts travelled to the plight of so many thousands of people who, in reality, are seeking refuge and enduring unimaginable hardships, often fleeing their homes with the clothes on their back. I meditated on these issues, feeling ever more privileged, wondering what my own family and my Aboriginal friends in WA would think of my artistic “explorations”.