“Seekhni hai gar fakiri, | If a holy way of life is to be learnt,
Toh paniharan se seekh, | learn from the waterwoman
Batiyaati hai sakhiyan se, | While conversing with companions (girl friends),
Dhyaan gaagar ke beech.” | her focus remains on the water in the pot.
-Amir Khusrau a 14th century poet wrote several poems in the voice of a woman. This poem is about “paniharan” or “waterwomen” typically fetching water, balancing multiple earthen pots on their heads.
Water, for long now, is a matter of conflict between communities, states and nations. However, the nature of conflicts over surface water and groundwater are different owing to relative invisibility of the latter. Elinor Ostorm’s ‘tragedy of commons’ with this common pool resource – has resulted in intricate environmental and social conflicts and losses. In India, by default, land rights get coupled with water resources and rights. Issues of access are thus further complicated by caste and by public-ness or private-ness of resources. This exacerbates further the ‘invisible labour’ that women, specifically belonging to communities living in highly water stressed peri urban and rural areas, have to do. The burden of fetching water (commonly from far off places) for domestic and cottage industry use is borne typically by women and children. While engaging directly with the resource as self organised collectives, waterwomen have revolutionised the governance and management of groundwater. While engaging with waterwomen, one looked at the soil, a pebble, a rock, a flower, a mountain and the whole landscape very differently. They establish a dialogue, a nurturing relationship with matter that is popularly regarded as inert and inanimate.
Form, to me, is not a mere imposition of consciousness on matter, but a mutual process where matter takes agency and reconciles with consciousness. One experiences how matter such as clay, water, affluents, air in the surroundings as “environmental publics” can actively recieve, respond to and shape an artistic endeavour, much like a life process. This helps me question how exclusive or inclusive the idea of a “community” is and how can our learnings and interactions with environmental publics be manifested in community based art making?
Through the proposed project I aim to study and implement approaches in co-researching, culturalising and archiving practices through which environmental publics and women have conversed, nutured and maintained each others health. I am interested in developing – interstitial and experimental – enabling processes that stem from the relationships between community based art making, ecology (social hydrogeology) and ‘critical pedagogy’.
Vrishali Purandare (1990, India) is an artist and educator. She has worked with community centers, universities, schools and organisations to develop and implement programmes, curricula and has published research papers in the field of art education. She is an alumus from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (BVA-2012), Shiv Nadar University (MFA-2016), Zurich University of Arts (Summer School-2016) and has studied Governance and management of groundwater at ACWADAM, Pune (2019). She is currently pursuing PhD in Practice at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
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