Seema Kohli’s art performance based on her father’s unpublished autobiography, Miter Pyaree Nu, combines inhabited land with the unified consciousness
SHE has made the world her canvas, and the canvas, a reflection of her inner world — large, expansive and vibrant with colours. Her works carry within them a quaint meditative mood, which catches every observer awestruck and unawares — drawn to the imagery, but unable to fathom it.
For somebody who has dabbled in various forms of art, in a career spanning 35 years, the artist is quite simple in her attire. Dressed in black, with her hair swept away in a bun, her fiery brown eyes were the only hint of colour on her person.
We met the 58-year-old while she was putting together the set design for her art performance at Kolkata Centre for Creativity when she spoke to us about her recent works and upcoming projects.
“This performance is born out of my father’s autobiography Miter Pyaree Nu, an unpublished work in Khadi-Boli, which will be published sometime around September this year,” says Seema. “While working on the book, for the past nine years, I was quite inspired by his childhood stories, from Pind Dadan Khan, a place where my ancestors had lived for eighteen generations,” she adds.
“In the previous performances, I had just read the script of my father’s book and had not included my poetry. But this is the first time that I have included verses sung by my father during his childhood days, some anatomical designs that I have drawn from his books, that are about 100 years old, and I also tried to understand the herbs, which my family used as they were Hakims. In addition, I bought some brassware, which was used at that time,” says Seema.
“Here, I am not just talking about my father’s love for his native land, but also my love for Delhi and how it has evolved over these years,” she explains.
Through this work, Seema evokes an era where the people, the land and their relationships and professions, all were inter-related. The title The Word for World is Home is inspired by Ursula K Le Guin’s novel The Word for World is Forest and binds together consciousness with inhabited land.
“I want to ask people what they understand by the word home and how far can they go, by creating boundaries and divisions. You have to believe it at some point of time, that we all share that one single space, from where we are coming — the unified consciousness which is called home,” she says.
But she holds herself back when we ask her if she wants to change society through her works. “It’s the job of a politician or a saint. For me, art is my tool to understand myself. It is my best friend and my coded secret language with myself,” she shares, with a smile.
Her next series of artworks, dealing with textiles and weaves will see the light of the day next year in March. Seema’s sculptural show in Delhi about Yoginis, based on stone, wood and bronze sculptures, is also scheduled later this year.