MY WORK: CONNECTING ROOTS

May 15, 2017

 

By Sandeep T.K. 

Connecting roots is a public art project which recently took place in the City Market in Bengaluru.

Jasmine (Jasmine grandiflorum) is considered to be the queen of flowers and is called the belle of India or the queen of fragrance as it is exquisitely scented to soothe and refresh. In different parts of India it is called by different names—mogra, motia, chameli, malli puvvu, jaati, juhi or mallige in Kannada.

Botanical names do not locate memory. But the fragrance of this flower recalls the living tradition of fragrance associated with the mallige in the lives of small farmers, women, priests who make it part of their living and worship.

The Mysore mallige or jasmine is legendry and is immortalised by the poets of this land. It is profusely grown in farmlands and backyards and is native to the soil of Karnataka.The fragrance of jasmine is an instant recall of festivities and the jasmine bedecked hair is a cultural symbol of southern India. 

The hot summer spring of April is the season of legendary Karaga Jatre in Bengaluru. Begaluru Karage is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in the heart of Bengaluru. This is a local festival that celebrates Draupadi as the ideal woman and Mother Goddess.

The Karaga is made in the shape of a Jasmine shikara and is carried on the head of the Karaga. The devotees showers jasmine flowers as the Karaga makes its way in a procession through the crowed. The jasmine is also used by all faiths in the syncretism and cosmopolitan urban landscape of Bengaluru.

This project maps the mallige (jasmine) from Tamil Nadu to Bengaluru. Connecting people, traditions and rituals of fragile flowers of the season. The process of farming in Krishnagiri (in Tamil Nadu), picking, packing and dispatching by farmers, women and children who enjoy this occupation, the middlemen, and the super fast tempo drivers who deliver on time to the sellers in city market in Bengaluru. It is like a ritual, business and a long living tradition.

The project Mapping Bangalore was an attempt to connect the people’s profession and their skill to make visible the informal labour and network that maps fragile fragrances in the city and the village. In this process of Mapping Bangalore, my attempt was to capture the city’s changing landscape.

I started visiting the city market everyday and had conversations with the sellers. They told me that the flowers were coming from Tamil Nadu. I met Pandy, one young boy, who was very friendly and he introduced me to Vijayan (one of the driver among many others, who carries jasmine flowers in jeep from Krishnagiri to KR market in Bengaluru (Karnataka).  I became friend with him and he showed me where the flowers are coming from and the hands behind the scene. I travelled to Krishnagiri in the same jeep, which transports the flowers, to the farmland and documented their fascinating life and work. My attempt was to capture their lives, aspiration and conversations.

This project also was an attempt to work outside the white cube and explore the possibility of displaying photographs in public space. For me photographing the ritual of flowers being picked, transported and sold was linking the two states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The fragile fragrance was connecting farmers, flower pickers, men and women who tie flowers to make garlands and the wholesalers who distribute the produce. Flowers are a 24 x 7 and 365 day business, there was never a day in their lives without them.

The exhibition at the KRCity Market opened up many conversations with the workers and common public, they instantly identified with the people in the photograph and responded to the project. The space became a site for conversations and opened up possibilities to continue the project at Krishnagiri. The artist community of Bengaluru supported it by visiting the site to see the spectacle of flowers that looks like an installation in flux.

The public display of photographs have given me a new perspective to my outlook in photography and has opened up a new dimension in my work and process.

This project was supported by 1shanthiroad Studio/Gallery, Bengaluru.

(Sandeep T.K. is a photographer based in Bengaluru. He has been part of Shergil-Sundaram Art Foundation, one month residency programme at 1shanthiroad Studio/Gallery and  was a part of SCZCC (South Central Zone Cultural Centre) art camp as a photographer to document Ujjain Simhastha Kumbh. He has been long listed for TOTO photography awards and has been selected show at the IGNCA, New Delhi. He is keen to capture people and their life struggles as human portraits. Some of his other works are based on human rights, gender and sexuality. He is going to be a part of a month residency programme in Litchenberg studios Berlin.)