The Kochi-Muziris Biennale that opened its doors to the public this December lines up an amazing array of art works from thirty one countries. More than ninety works of art awaits the viewers pouring in each day, unveiling the brave new frontiers of artistic expression.
The country’s largest art exposition steals the limelight this year by lining up the highest numbers of women in its short history. The 4th KMB can boast of a whopping sixty percent of women artists. And, not to mention the fact that the curator of this edition is a woman.
Anita Dubey, the first female curator of the KMB was busy with her responsibilities at Pepper House, one of the Biennale venues in Fort Kochi. “This is a dream! A space where an amazing array of women artists from the Guerilla Girls to the weaver woman from Kerala brush shoulders with each other,’ said Dubey briefly, before plunging into her hectic responsibilities.
In this series, four of the women artists who are present at the 4th KMB each one flaunting their own distinctive ideas and approaches talk about their art and life. Here's K V Santha talking about her work:
The Banyan Tree of Hope – K V Santha
Near the entrance of the Aspinwall House, the main venue of the KMB stands a huge tree. Strings from the loom hang down from the branches of the tree, embracing the earth like creepers falling down. This installation, ‘Tree of Life,’ belongs to K V Santha, the Malayali feminine presence at the KMB. She talks about this installation in which the humans, nature and rituals are woven together.
“This tree struck my eyes the moment I stepped into the venue. It brought to my mind the whole notion of the banyan tree. The mother tree that nurtures the offspring born from her. It was this notion which worked behind this installation. What more should I say about the need to protect and nurture our own roots ?”
The threads are entangled in the same way as the roots of the banyan tree get entangled. In many places you can find the ritual of tying threads on the branches of the banyan tree for ensuring our own protection.
There are two more of Santha’s installations at the Kashi Art Gallery. “When I started to learn weaving some 35 years ago, my mother asked, why don’t you do something else ?” She asked that question because we were never a weavers’ family by tradition. At that time, even the traditional families were abandoning the art of weaving. But we felt that this was the time to do something in that field. Thus, myself along with my brothers Vasudevan and Balakrishnan started the Thasara Weaving Centre which became an institution in itself. We are at present making custom-made clothes, besides imparting the training in weaving. Earlier it was mainly foreigners who sought us out, but these days many from the young generation are coming to Tasara.
“Most of the people view professions such as weaving just as another traditional job. If you could make yourself ready to appreciate weaving as an art form and to work with respect, you can also turn into a Banyan Tree.
“I am here at the KMB not as a weaver, but as an artist. And I’d received the same respect during many of the exhibitions conducted internationally as well. But not many people hardly know that I was the first Malayali to have participated in the International Trinnale of Textile Art. Anita Dubey had selected me for the KMB after watching my work. “
Santha turned back to finish the work of one more installation within the KMB venue which she had to complete.