TOH EE MING
Flickering candlelight casts a warm, intimate glow onto the 21 photographs that are hung like prayer flags along white strings at Siddhartha Art Gallery
. A glowing blue light emanates from Italian-born artist Silvia Capiluppi’s
chest, as she sits serenely in front of a large metal basin.
Members of the audience carefully move forward to the centre, where she gently pours water over their hands. Four women chant in Bengali, their soft, murmuring voices forming a gently hypnotic chorus. Finally, Capiluppi picks up the damp photograph and hangs it up. In red and white stitching, the embroidered words read, “The Earth must be washed with clean water.” Capiluppi thus tries to convey the urgency of conserving water through this highly spiritual, abstract performance. “We are born in water, our bodies are made of water. Clean water is the very essence of life itself,” explains Capiluppi.
The performance is part of the Balam Project that has been envisioned as a nomad art project for protection and healing. Climate change and pollution threatens the future of the Himalayas, which is one of the largest reservoirs of fresh water on the planet. So Capiluppi felt Nepal was the best place to kick start the Balam Project.
After her time on the small Greek island of Ios in August last year, Capiluppi made 21 self-portraits from a zoomorphic
rock that bore a striking resemblance to the head of a Jaguar, Balam
in ancient Mayan language. The 21 photographs of Balam Project were embroidered in Kathmandu last year.
Symbols from Tibetan Buddhism have been painstakingly embroidered by Mumtaj Hussain from Nepal onto the photographs thus transforming the original works into collaborative pieces. The unique work used both hand and machine embroidery and they will be further embellished with hand-embroidery in various languages of the host countries that the Balam Project will travel to. By using varying religious symbols, she hopes her work will transcend cultures and convey the universal message to protect the planet Earth.
Capiluppi is content with using her art to push this environmental message forward. Says Capiluppi, “As long as you can create a small wave that moves, you can speak to the next person. Everybody can learn to value water, even in the small everyday things.”
Toh Ee Ming
Kathmandu, March 24, 2014