It’s not always that you find a French scholar of philosophy finding solace in the pages of ancient Indian classical texts and scriptures. So profound has been the impact of Indian philosophy on Mireille Josephine Guezennec, that she loves to be addressed as Himabindu, a Hindu name given by her Indian Guru. After years of hard labour, Mireille, who divides her time between teaching philosophy in University Orleans-Tours in France and researching in India, is holding a photography exhibition in Indian Museum, Kolkata, paying homage to Goddess Durga.
Studying Indian philosophy and delving deep into the ancient Indian classical texts brought Mireille to Chennai, where she studied Sanskrit. It was there that she developed interest in Indian classical dance forms. “Since philosophy, art and aesthetic go together in Indian vision and approach, I thought of capturing the same in photographs,” recalls Mireille.
The temples, their grand architecture, rich iconography and art along with mythology, consisted another important subject of her researches. “I travelled extensively in Odisha, to see the beautiful temples as well as experience Odissi dance with its traditions rooted in temples, such as Konarak.
Mireille’s first photography exhibition was about establishing parallels between the living art of dance and choreography and the sculptures of dance poses in temples. But capturing the dynamic movements of such dances in live shows was more difficult. "Hence I travelled across the country to study the different styles of Indian classical dances and theatre, including Kathakali in Kerala, Satrya dance in Assam. I met many dancers and choreographers, too,” she adds.
The subject of her latest exhibition going on at the Indian Museum is Durga Puja and Durga, as the Mother Goddess or Adishakti. “But there will also be photographs of Ma Kali and other Goddesses, such as, Saraswati and Manasa. This is also homage to the artists, who are making such beautiful idols year after year. It’s an art work, which is deeply anchored in philosophical and spiritual thoughts,” explains Mireille.
It is the first time that Mireille is holding an exhibition in Kolkata. Before this, she had two photography exhibitions in Delhi at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA). The first one was on Indian classical and sacred dances and the second one was homage to Ganga, from the Himalaya till Ganga Sagar in Bengal.
Mireille has made Kolkata her second home for more than a year now, and has been doing researches on Durga Puja, besides the other predominant goddesses in Bengal and the East.
“It’s very important for me to take back my experience to France and share it with my eager students there,” says Mireille, who is a regular visitor at Kumartuli, the hub of renowned idol makers in Bengal. A great admirer of the talent of these artisans, craftsmen and sculptors, who for several generations are devoting their time to making the clay idols, Mireille wants to bring out the same in her exhibition, too.
What: Homage to the Great Goddess Durga
Where: Indian Museum Kolkata
When: Till November 12