A TALE OF MONSOONS

A TALE OF MONSOONS

KOCHI, KERALA

The peculiar geographic orientation of Kerala with Arabian Sea as the western boundary makes the weather pattern very unique in this part of the Indian subcontinent. Advance of the southwest monsoon over Indian mainland is marked by monsoon onset over Kerala and is an important indicator characterizing the transition from the hot and dry to rainy season. Coastal and hilly areas in the state are likely to receive heavy rains in isolated places.The North Western Ghats moist deciduous forests is a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of southwestern India. Wayanad , the evergreen forest is the most species rich eco region with eighty percent of the flowering plant species of the entire mountain range found here.

A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Global monsoon and climate change has never been studied from an Indian and global perspective. This project is being developed at a crucial juncture when the concept of monsoon itself is undergoing a revision. Newer researches and studies have foregrounded the concept of a global monsoon by revising the conventional definition of monsoon as the annual reversal of prevailing surface winds. Shifts monsoon patterns have also been proving disastrous across the world. These are resulting in unstable food yield, devastating floods and droughts, and subsequent large-scale migrations/ displacement. We are witnessing the rise in numbers of climate refugees across the world.

‘A Tale of Monsoons’ is located at a crucial juncture when the concept of monsoon itself is undergoing a revision. Newer researches and studies have foregrounded the concept of a global monsoon by revising the conventional definition of monsoon as the annual reversal of prevailing surface winds. At present experts have identified seven regional monsoons such as the South Asian monsoon, East Asian monsoon, Australian monsoon, Northern and Southern African monsoon, Mexican and Southwest US monsoon and South American monsoon.

Currently there is an academic and scientific demand to study these monsoons as an integrated global phenomenon instead in isolation. Questions are raised about its existence on earth, its various driving factors and its evolution and how it altered and affected geographies in time. Therefore, it is very important to study the historical conditions and current motivations for this global turn.

“BORN IN THE LOFTY LINEAGE OF SWIRLING DILUVIAL CLOUDS, I KNOW YOU ARE GOD OF THUNDER’S MINISTER ASSUMING WHAT SHAPE YOU WILL; SO, BANISHED FROM WIFE AND KINSMEN BY DIVINE DECREE, I ENTREAT YOU; FOR IT IS NOBLER TO ADDRESS BARREN PLEAS TO THE VIRTUOUS THAN FRUITFUL TO THE VILE.”

AN EXTRACT FROM MEGHADUTAM BY KALIDASA

(TRANSLATED IN ENGLISH BY CHANDRA RAJAN)

Kalidasa’s Ritusamhara (Seasons) and Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger) are exceptional works which bring forth seasonal changes as an important player in literature. Such poetic citation of monsoon continued in the works of many writers from South Asia in modern and contemporary times.

ABOUT ‘A TALE OF MONSOONS’

‘A Tale of Monsoons’ is a multi-disciplinary and community-centric exhibition conceptualized and curated by Premjish Achari along with The Kala Chaupal Trust to map the historical, cultural and scientific life of global monsoon. This journey will start in Kochi, Kerala and end in the seventh year back in Kerala after circumventing the globe to close perspectives.

This project aims to be a 7 year study of the seven global regional monsoons such as the South Asian monsoon, East Asian monsoon, Australian monsoon, Northern and Southern African monsoon, Mexican and Southwest US monsoon and South American monsoon.

CURATOR PREMJISH ACHARI

Premjish Achari is a curator, writer and translator. He has initiated Future Collaborations, an independent curatorial platform and his translations have been published by Sahitya Akademi. Premjish has curated ‘Workers and Farmers: The Panorama of Resistance (Prelude)’ at Khoj International Artists’ Association, Delhi (2018); ‘A Preview to Desolation’ at Italian Cultural Center, Delhi (2017). He has received the Inlaks: Take on Art Travel Grant for Young Critics (2016)and was the Fellow for Curatorial Intensive South Asia at Khoj (2017). In 2018 he received the Art Scribes Award by Prameya Art Foundation and as part of the award he attended a residency at Château de La Napoule, France.

He is the Co-Curator of the public art exhibition ‘Navigation is Offline’ as part of the Bhubaneswar Art Trail 2018. In 2019 he curated the exhibition ‘A Time for Farewells’ at the Shrine Empire Gallery, Delhi and Haverford College, Pennsylvania. Premjish Achari is a visiting faculty at Shiv Nadar University where he teaches art history and theory.

CURATOR’S NOTE

“As we know the ecological crisis we are witnessing is not only an environmental hazard, it is as much an economic, political, and cultural disaster. The aesthetic platform created to address the environment should focus on the interrelated legal, political and cultural developments. Therefore, this exhibition brings together artists, writers, historians, scientists, environmentalists, activists, etc. to create a multidisciplinary platform to articulate newer frameworks to address the ecological crisis and also foreground a shift from the Anthropocene discourse. Universalising responsibility of ecological disaster has only shielded exploitative corporate houses, ineffective policies, global capitalism and it has successfully obscured the precarious conditions of climate vulnerable. Besides witnessing and studying, this exhibition proposes to also propose newer strategies to tackle the crisis and visions for sustainable co-existence. As a pilot project the exhibition involves participants from India and the four European countries United Kingdom, Netherlands, Portugal and France which had established trade relations in the Kerala region through the four East India Company. This will not only allow us to explore the historical ties but also engage with the current crisis through developing a shared perspective. The curatorial premise encourages to develop critical and participatory frameworks in foregrounding humanity’s association with non-human seasonal cycles. “

– Premjish Achari

WEBINAR- A TALE OF MONSOONS

A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

This project will collaborate with artists, scientists, historians, archeologists, performers, architects, designers, environmental activists, policy-makers, stakeholders, etc. in one platform to to create common global narratives to articulate to seasonal changes in monsoon, the global relevance of monsoon and the future of monsoon in the wake of climate change.

A HISTORICAL, CULTURAL & ENVIRONMENTAL INHERITANCE

The life of monsoon, its influence on the South Asian cultural landscape, the recent climate disasters, and the future of monsoon form an integral part of this exhibition’s vision. It weaves together history, archaeological evidence, maritime trade connections, along with contemporary scientific research, environmental art practices, and advocacy to create a global platform to critically think and act together. This coming together also envisages an attempt to understand the limitations of contemporary art, curatorial and theoretical frameworks. It searches for newer frameworks, research, forms of organisation and practice to address the crisis and provide compelling alternatives. Moreover, it deploys an oceanic perspective by bringing together perspectives from both internal and external sources to bridge the gap between arts, aesthetics, science, technology, meteorology and history.

“THEY CAN’T SEIZE OUR MONSOONS, CAN THEY?”

famous words by the zamorin on the seizing of the pepper plant to take on the ship from kochi back to europe

Calicut, India as rendered in 1572. Europe used brutal tactics in India and Southeast Asia in efforts to get in on the spice trade. Image is from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenber’s atlas Civitates orbis terrarum.

Native to the monsoon rainforests of Kerala, black pepper, a sun-dried berry of the pepper vine, is one of the earliest known, and most widely used, spices in the world. Growing on a climbing evergreen perennial vine supported by host trees such as areca, coconut, mango or jackfruit in home-yards or on a wooden pole in plantations, it is a common feature in the region is perhaps why the tropical climate and the heavy monsoons of Kerala are ideal for this plant.

Archaeological evidence of people using pepper goes back to at least 2000 BC in India.

In 1497, the Portuguese king Manuel sent Vasco da Gama to find the sea route to India with the purpose of finding “Christians and spices.” By the end of the 15th century AD, the Portuguese took over the spice trade. Pepper is a shared cultural heritage in food and cuisine across the world. Pepper’s popularity quickly spread through world cuisines once more trade routes were established. This resulted in typical spice blends such as garam masala in India, ras el hanout in Morocco, quatre épices in France and Cajun and jerk blends in the Americas.

PEPPER- SPICE & HISTORY

THE MUZIRIS HERITAGE PROJECT – HTTPS://WWW.MUZIRISHERITAGE.ORG/MAP.PHP

CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS

Drastic climate changes and frequent seasonal calamities are adversely affecting the livelihood of the people of the state.

‘A Tale of Monsoons’ is envisaged as a physical exhibition and project to be presented in Kochi with the following structure:

PIED CUCKOO: THE RAIN BIRD

The Jacobin cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus), pied cuckoo or the pied crested cuckoo, is a member of the cuckoo order of birds that is found in Africa and Asia.

It is partially migratory and in India, it has been considered a harbinger of the monsoon rains due to the timing of its arrival. It has been associated with a bird in Indian mythology and poetry, known as the chataka (Sanskrit: Chataka) represented as a bird with a beak on its head that waits for rains to quench its thirst.

‘THE CHAUPAL SPACE’

A critical art collective exhibition with research based artist residencies to develop global narratives.

Outreaches in the project will engage across communities to address Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030:

‘CHAUPAL EVOKES’

Community workshops on sustainable designs to include local crafts, agriculture, architectural and traditional materials.

‘BAR-BAR CHAUPAL’

A resource library, education material bank and and interactive learning lab for schools, institiutions and communities.

‘CHAUPAL SPEAKS’

Discussions will centre around creative communities and ecology, sustainability and resilience through arts and design, monsoon patterns and climate change to name a few.

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS IN TRADITIONAL MURALS

In Kerala, traditionally the mural painting is done in five colours – red, yellow, green, black and white. Colours are prepared from vegetables and mineral pigments. Red is derived from red literate, yellow is derived from yellow laterite, white from lime, and black from soot of oil-lamps.

It is partially migratory and in India, it has been considered a harbinger of the monsoon rains due to the timing of its arrival. It has been associated with a bird in Indian mythology and poetry, known as the chataka (Sanskrit: Chataka) represented as a bird with a beak on its head that waits for rains to quench its thirst.

CLIMATE RESPONSIVE ARCHITECTURE

A climate responsive design of buildings is an effect of internal courtyards in traditional buildings of Kerala to facilitate the flow of air through the interiors to achieve better thermal comfort.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS 2030

SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE

It is important that all of us as part of a community come together and contribute for a better
future for us and our environment.