Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Holi Fire

Bonfires, in preparation for the Holi celebrations, began to appear around the city today. The evening before Holi is Holika Dahan when bonfires burn to rid the place of the evil spirits. The ritual is a precursor to the mischievous and more commonly known festival of colour, where people take to covering each other in large quantities of wet and dry pigment.
The fires are situated, rather scarily, in the middle of throughfares around the narrow lanes of the Pols, close to houses, beneath telephone and electricity wires and in the middle of the roads!The people of the pol gather around the sites, talking and catching up.

As the daylight fades, the fires are lit. 
Individuals walk around the fire an odd number of times (3, 5 or 7) pour water from small ritual jugs, give prayers or chant Mantras and make offerings, mostly of coconut or cereal (Wheat, Gram or oats).Watch a film of the Holi celebrations here: Celebrating Holi
The ash from the fire will be collected and some placed on the body of individuals to protect from evil.
Learn more here: Holika Dahan


The Kite Museum -Ahmedabad

Located in Sanskar Kendra, in the same building as the Ahmedabad City Museum (designed by Corbusier) the Kite Museum houses a wonderful collection of kites.
Established in 1985, the museum includes information about the history of kite making as well as some wonderful examples made from paper, nylon, cotton and bamboo.
The designs include imagery from Ahmedabad and India’s history as well as animal and geometric designs.
The intricacy of the designs is incredible, with each coloured piece of paper cut and stuck together to make up the kite. The contrast between the translucency, the delicateness of the paper and the tension created by the bamboo frame make them wonderful objects. A great platform for drawings and patterns of all kinds.
Every January the city of Ahmedabad has a festival of kites where people take to the roof tops of their houses to fly and fight their kites from dawn till dusk.
Flyers thread glass shards on the strings of their kites so they can do aerial battle with their neighbours and cut their strings. The sheer number of kites is said to be a wonderful sight.

The festival marks the days in the Hindu calendar when winter begins turning to summer, known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan.

Weeks before the festival craftsmen from places across India, including Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Agra, Mathura, Rampur, Bareilly and Lucknow, descend upon the city to make and sell their kites.

"After sunrise on the 14th of January, all rooftops in the city are crowded to capacity, as airbourne kites are pitted against one another. Cries of victory or defeat rend the air, and everyone enters the fray........The whole day slips by. Neither fatigue nor cut fingers, nor even the fading light of the setting sun deter the participants....".

'Under Ahmedabad Skies'. Kite Museum. Ahmedabad.

Watch 'Witness - Under the Ahmedabad Sky' - Part 1., Part 2., Part 3., Part 4.

Ahmedabad City Museum

Ahmedabad City Museum is situated on the bank of the Subarmati River in the City of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is located across the road from the National Institute of Design and close to the Tagore Memorial Hall.
The building was designed by Corbusier in 1954. It is built around a central courtyard, similar to the design of the Havelis - the traditional buildings in the pols of the old city.
Built from brick and concrete the main gallery is accessed along a ramp from within the courtyard. To access the courtyard you must walk in under the raised building.


The internal spaces are dark and have little views to the outside and surrounding spaces. The building has a feel of being slightly fortified and inward looking.

The collection illustrates and celebrates the cities history and cultural heritage. As well as housing an historic collection of beautifully drawn maps of the city, architectural details, carvings, furniture and paintings, the museum displays examples of the metal, textile, paper and woodcrafts as well as the artefacts associated with the festivals and religons of the region.
Carved map of the old city.
As well as beautifully drawn and proportioned maps there are some wonderful line drawings, portraits of men from the different tribal groups within Gujarat.
Painted plaster details. The vivid colours were echoed in the painted paper manuscripts and religious hangings.

Block printed and appliqué textiles.
The clarity of the design and line caught my eye.
I liked the blocking of the patterns, the repeat and the limited range of colours.
'Paper cuts'; intricate religious images cut from sheets of paper with increadibly fine detail, along with stencils.
More paper in the form of a 5m high 3D model of the tomb of Hussain of Karabala, used for processions during the Muslim Festival of Muharram.
I was drawn to the graphic imagery of the Mata ni Pachedi - textile temple hangings produced by the once nomadic Waghari community. Intricate drawings on fabric which tell the story of the 'Mata' or mother-godess and were used form or to hang behind the focal point of a 'makeshift' shrine.
Snakes and Ladders!
Manuscripts with minature paintings of religious subjects.
Ahmedabad was a center of resistance to the British rule of India and to the Raj. Gandhi established his Ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and it was here that he held meetings and planned his campaign of non violent resistance to the British. The museum houses objects and printed material related to the Indian struggle for independence.
A cast, fabricated and raised brass Dowry Chest approximately 1metre 10cm High. These were given as gifts at a couple wedding and used to store jewellery and clothes.
Ahmedabad is famous for its metalwork and large water vessels.
A carved sacred cow and a Lingam and Yoni used for worship and veneration in Hindu temples.
There were examples of the bench seats with flip over backs
and some interesting coat hooks which once furnished homes in the city.
The building also houses the Kite Museum.
The courtyard contains sculpture and an example of a 'Chabutro': a bird feeder.
At the entrance to the museum the guards stool made re-use of a cycle tyre.
An Ambassador car, now an increasingly rare sight on Indian roads, stood outside the museum.