All is water, and to water we must return
Apr. 19 until Apr. 25, 2021
Presented by Experimenter in Kolkata
Experimenter announces Sahil Naik’s solo project All is water, and to water we must return at Ballygunge Place (Projects room). The project will concurrently be on view as part of Galleries Curate: RHE, the first chapter of a collaborative exhibition and online platform.
This exhibition will be on view until June 30, 2021, at Experimenter - Ballygunge Place Projects Room, 45 Ballygunge Place in Kolkata. For more information or to schedule a visit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call on +91.33.4602.6457 / +91.33.4001.2289.
Over the past six years, Naik has extensively worked with families from Curdi to document the landscape, structures, oral histories and songs. All is water, and to water we must return, resists erasure and attempts to re-frame memory, recuperation and coming to terms with loss.
The body of work emerges across three conditions of time: the last villagers who knew Curdi before its submergence are at an advanced age and their stories remain largely undocumented. The waters that had preserved the structures over these decades are now warmer with climate change, besides altered rainfall patterns, leading to a faster deterioration of structures. How can we re-think history outside prescription and state sanction, building it from lived experiences, oral histories and legends. How can nature be a determinant of history?
"We are water and to water we must return,
Here before the forest, before her gods
Land and life and husk and grain.
That day they asked us for our homes,
And our homes we must surrender,
What will we take with us when we pass over,
We are water and to water we must return.
These waters will protect our homes
The sacred plant and my mother’s flour mill,
And keep our memories warm in its fold.
And when as dust to these waters we will return,
We will at last, be home again."
(Translated from Konkani to English)
Untranslatable, yet meaning many things in their distance, Hiraeth (Cymraeg)/ Saudade (Portuguese) is nostalgia, longing and a seething desire; sometimes a sense of regret. A yearning for a home that cannot be returned to or one that no longer exists; a deep and irrational bond felt with a time, era, and place, irretrievably; the desire for a beloved, made painful by absence. The landscape from a distance, abstracts into a dream, this longing and desire made of unbelievable blue and dust – an enveloping of land with water; water with land – each taking over and eventually surrendering. They say here, water is loyal – it never washes away the land that holds it. They say here, water has memory, it holds traces of everything that passes through it. They say here, water is our keeper, It holds our tears, our salt and our prayers.
On 19 December 1961, Goa was organized as a centrally administered union territory under Operation Vijay ending colonial Portuguese occupation. This independence came over a decade after the rest of India gained sovereignty from British rule. Bahujan leader, Bhausaheb Bandodkar, named the first chief minister of Goa, envisioned a progressive, forward looking agenda for the territory. The Selaulim dam, thus emerged as an ambitious dream project – a monument to liberation and development. The Dam would solve Goa’s water woes if built, but would submerge a large cover of sacred forests, lakes with unique ecosystems, mangroves along the ancient villages of Kurdi and Kurpem in Sanguem Taluka (district). The people agreed to make a ‘sacrifice’ for this vision and for the sake of Goans (people of Goa). Bandodkar died in office in 1972, but the dam was commissioned and completed in his daughter and succeeding Chief Minister, Shashikala Kakodkar. The construction began in 1977, displacing over 3000 families and eventually submerged the villages The villagers had to abandon their homes overnight and relocate to higher planes.
Several returned in the following months to look at the reservoir that now enveloped their homes, touching the waters each time, in prayer and as proximity. In the March of 1978, a “miracle” occurred. The waters of the reservoir receded with the onset of summer and the entire village “returned to the sun” for three months. The villagers returned to temporarily occupy their homes, cleaning and placing objects like vessels, diyas (lamps) and flowers.
Each year since 1978, the villagers have returned to their homes with objects and offerings. They clean the remains of their homes. They perform rituals and pray.
“Our prayer we leave in these waters, the spirits will protect our lands."
“As we waded out to higher land, the water left our bodies, dripping back into the lake. We turned around and offered our prayers. These waters have nourished us all these years. We give them willingly what they ask of us now, our homes even”
With a prayer the villagers left their hearth and home to be rehabilitated in remote Valkini and Vaddem.
Several returned in the following months to look at the lake that now enveloped their homes, touching the waters each time, in prayer and as proximity. In the March of 1978, what they call a “miracle” occurred.