Artist Sudipta Das’s doll-like sculptures, on display at the multi-media solo show The Exodus of Eternal Wanderers at Gallery Latitude 28, narrate tales of the displaced. The installation is inspired by the dakjee doll-making technique that Das learned during her residency in South Korea in 2017.
As Das herself says, the artwork is an instrumental medium for revisiting pangs of migration and displacement that she recalls from the devastating floods in the Silcher area of Assam, and otherwise spurred by war, violence and climate change.
The Hanji paper, fragile yet resistant, was shaped into tenacious unnamed people when Vadodara, where Das lives and works, was hit by floods in 2019.
She talks about impact of the overflowing Barak river, recalling the widespread panic in the state as people looked for shelter.
The arrangement of the exhibition pulls the whole narrative together – it starts from the very first steps leading up to the gallery, where figures are suspended from the ceiling.
The ‘Land of Exile’, the first installation of the artist’s work, placed right in the middle, draws the immediate attention of visitors. Filled with several sculptures, segmented into two parts, where dolls are placed so close to one another as even if one tries to walk through them, it’s a struggle, depicting anxiety people experience during disasters.
Placed next to this work is ‘Crossing Over’, ‘Mother and Child’, ‘Displaced Lives’, and the series continues with Shelter I to X. All these sculptures are miniaturised version of human figures and personalities, each despondent and distressed, facing a humanitarian crisis.
As art is a lifelike reflection of the society, Das’s work predominates the words like, walls, migration, refugees, detention camps, in an atmosphere where boat people in Europe and Rohingyas in South East Asia have, already, lost the battle of not being a ‘refugee’.
On the other hand, the artist’s home town Silchar and other parts of India are presently grappling with the fear of the triple threat of CAA-NCR-NPR.
Amidst the hostility and indifference for more than 70 million refugees in the world, artist Sudipta Das’s work couldn’t be more relevant.
Jyoti Thakur is a journalism student at Kalindi College, University of Delhi.
All images provided by the author