The World on its Hands and Knees | Archana Hebbar Colquhoun

A Sculptural Representation of Covid-19

The timeline of the global pandemic of the coronavirus and its deadly manifestation as Covid-19 needs no introduction. The scale and the enormity of the destruction caused by Covid-19, the speed at which this large-scale culling of human beings – not in anyone’s living memory – with no resolution in sight, has brought the world down on its hands and knees.

As a visual artist, my mind could only think in images in order to make sense of this holocaust-like situation and there rose from my memory a sculpture of a crawling man, which I had made more than three decades ago. 

I made this sculpture in 1987 after I moved to Tokyo and I had absolutely no desire whatsoever to write about another artist’s work, having worked as an art critic in New Delhi. I decided to change the course of my life and become an artist. I started working in a small back room of my two-room apartment in Tokyo. I bought large blocks of a caustic material – polystyrene, to carve life-size figures. All of the figures had irregularities in their physical form and each image/figure was based on a specific person I had seen, moving around on the streets of Calcutta (of the early to-mid 80s). The sculpture that I will be referring to is my second life-size sculpture that I ever created. I hadn’t studied sculpture in Baroda, but my seven year-long study of art history enabled me, without my knowledge, to simply pick up the necessary tools and material and create sculptures of people, based on realistic figuration, a task for which I had no prior training. The sculptures were made out of a poisonous material, taking on human forms with congenital or deliberately created ‘malformations’ in the body, for which life models are not readily available, unless the very person I saw posed for me as a model. This meant that the forms had to be drawn purely from my memory along with a bit of imagination to crystalize the form. But, earlier I did say that these sculptures were based on actual people I had seen. I made a set of five figure sculptures, including one of a new born baby. I was, at that time, almost certain that I would not have a child – I wasn’t made to be a mother. This has been proven wrong.

In this set of five figures there is one exception. This work is purely from my imagination, a form I have never ever seen in real life, and which is based on one of my life experience that to this day makes its presence felt in my conscious and subconscious mind with decreasing intensity over the years. 

I will now come to the sculpture, which is the subject of this article and which is the second one in the series of five sculptures.

Although the figure is based on someone I actually saw on a Calcutta street – and froze for a few moments when I happened to set eyes on him – and the memory of him to this day is still a strong presence, I needed to use models to carve a sculpture of the man. The person I saw should have been provided medical help, perhaps earlier on in his life, given equipment that was suitably devised for his particular needs, and an opportunity for social integration. It was the lack of any form of institutional support for the man, left to his own devices to function on the streets that stopped me in my tracks when I encountered him, while other pedestrians walked past him and took no notice. I didn’t have to stand there studying the form of the man to memorize his stance and mobility. He was not a spectacle for me but an individual, just as myself, who happened to catch my eye only very briefly but that brief encounter has had a lasting impression on me. It is a mystery to even the most seasoned practitioner of the visual arts as to why a certain image enters their consciousness and makes a home for itself in the deep recesses of their memory.

Polystyrene is the medium of all five sculptures in the group. The medium itself symbolizes the near-evil destructive potential of the myriad man-made materials enveloping the earth, in an embrace of death. 

The figure, as mentioned earlier, although drawn from memory so vivid as to compel me to give it tangible form, required that I use life models who could hold the twisted posture of the figure that I wanted to carve. A model was necessary, especially in the case of this sculpture, for me to be able to study the skeletal framework of the figure that would lend itself to such contortion, observe the stress, and tension of the musculature in the limbs and the torso, with the neck craning upwards so the head could rise up to look at what is above the eye level.

The sculpture is of a man, who can move only by crawling on his hands and knees, his head trying perpetually to look at what could have been and what he may have been able to attain in his life if he had been blessed with a skeletal frame and an arrangement of limbs that would allow him “normal”  physical movements. His limbs were skinny and bent in unexpected places and the angles fixed and rigid.

Yes, this is a sculpture of a man (my models for the sculpture being both male and female – friends of mine) the man crawling on his hands and knees, almost entirely without clothes, dragging his miserable collection of body parts along the rough, dusty, broken stones of a pavement but he appeared determined to continue on with his life.

This figure of a crawling man, almost helpless and completely without hope of any improvement in his circumstances, symbolizes to me the state that the greatest of world leaders and every single human being is reduced to today, by COVID-19. The coronavirus has brought the whole world down to its hands and knees.

In my next article in the series on Covid-19, I will take up the issue of “Social Distancing,” a term that is problematic due to its various negative connotations. The subject of the article will be another one of my sculptures from the series of five, titled “Seated Man.”

Acting Tips by Prof. Manohar Khushalani on Instagram

Acting Skills by MK
Prof. Manohar Khushalani’s Live Interview on Instagram

Was invited for this program by one of the new Lockdown Channels
created by a producer from Colours TV Channel . They are interviewing
celebrities  informally to help people knock off their blues

Acting Tips with Manohar Khushalani. Spiced with hilarious anecdotes from
my Theatre life. Please watch it live today 16th May 2020 on Instagram.
7 pm India
2.30 pm UK
6.30 am LA
9.30 am NY.

 Follow the link below. It will come live at times mentioned above.

Nurses’ Day assumes importance in Covid Times: Watch Purnima Nightingale’s Personal Battle in this Film.

Manohar Khushalani, Neelam Jain & Chandra Mann during a take. Behind the Camera is the Director Satya Prakash.

12th May is Nurses’ DAY. Nursing is an old & a noble profession.. Today in Covid times they are on the front lines of the battle against Coronavirus. What personal struggle some have to go through to remain on the path of service to mankind is highlighted in this TVNF Film. The cast includes Manohar Khushalani, as the regretful husband, Aseem and Neelam Jain as the Noble Nurse, Purnima.

Please watch this TVNF film: ‘Nurse Purnima Nightingale‘. It’s written by Neelam Jain and Directed by Satya Prakash. Actors; Subodh Gulati, Shruti Kaur, V. P. Kalra, Chandra Mann & Mohit Vashisht also played significant roles in this meaningful film with a poignant message.

Celebrating 150 years of the Mahatma | Manohar Khushalani

A review of the festival at IIC _ Gandhi Ki Dilli

Published earlier in IIC DIARY
Sanatan Sangeet Sanskriti’s, Words in the Garden, curated by Ashok Vajpeyi, is an annual celebration of Literature, Arts and Ideas, of Delhi, this time as a tribute to Gandhi, it was also capsuled as Bapu ki Dilli.

The event thus opened with a film directed by Shyam Benegal, The Making of
the Mahatma,
featuring Rajit Kapoor as Gandhi and Pallavi Joshi as IIC
The film is based upon the book, The Apprenticeship of a Mahatma, by Fatima
Meer it relates to his 21 years in South Africa where he evolved and fine tuned
his Satyagraha Philosophy. For those who have not seen the 1996 film, it
reveals a different Gandhi and his attempt to come to terms with his
headstrong idealism, which sometimes set him on a path of confrontation even
with his wife. Pallavi, affectionately called, Kastur, by Gandhi etches out a
strong personality for Kasturba unlike the common perception of her being a
pliable person

On the same day we saw an unusual theatre exercise. Stay Yet a While, was a
play reading directed by M.K. Raina, inspired from an unusual and rare
collection of letters exchanged by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore,
along with some essays by them, curated by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya. The
production retained the flavour of the text by keeping it simple, the content
was powerful enough to sustain the performance handled deftly by seasoned
actors; Avijit Dutt as Tagore and Oroon Das as Gandhi. Preeti Agarwal, the
debutant, was the narrator. Raina’s style of Direction is very original, he
chooses performers for their ability to think and analyse and not for their
histrionics. Also without imitating the body language of the protagonists, they
were able to bring out their larger than life personalities. The result was a
didactic presentation exploring the ideas of two philosophical giants.

Ras Chakra’s Har Qatra Toofan, directed by Vinod Kumar, was yet another play
reading in the series about Gandhi which. The idea was to demystify the
legend, through the eyes of women of his time. Thus the reading was made by
women actors from letters and essays by Sarojini Naidu, Mahadevi Verma,
Ismat Chughtai, Taj Sahiba Lahauri, Anne Mary Peterson, Ellen Horup and Ima
Tarlo. The inspiration for the collection came from the historian Ram Chandra
Guha’s path breaking writings, considered by critics to be the last word on the
subject; Gandhi before India and Gandhi: Years that Changed the World,

Besides, the festival was also replete with discussions on topics and ideas
ranging from Sustainable Living, Sparrows to Gandhi’s favourite Bhajans and
even his nutritional philosophy expressed through a lunch curated by Pushpesh
Pant, with unfamiliar cuisine, like Bajre ki Khichri, Methi ke Theple and many
such minimalistic gourmet items

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12562184

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