Curator’s Note

‘A roti if you don’t turn, will burn.

Horse tied to a place will lose its pace,

A leaf stuck to the soil will rot,

Knowledge that does not travel will shrivel’

So we stay moving with our herds..’

It is the powerful simplicity of what Jaisingkaka said to me some years ago that carried the seed for this exhibition. A Rabari from Kutch, he has herded his animals for more than 45 years, walking more than 3000 kms each year, across India’s belly from the western tip of India to the edges of Orissa. Like him, millions of pastoralists roam the ever shrinking pastures of India, even as they continue to tread lightly on this land. And they carry with them compelling tales of living and herding, even as everything seems to be working against them! These stories too needed to move on and touch many of our settled and frenetic lives. 

We will be surprised to know how pastoralism intersects our lives - our food, our textile fibres, crafts, our cultural landscape, all through the many invisible gifts that we receive from them. Each day. The exhibition ‘Living Lightly ~ Journeys with Pastoralists’ was designed to generate many conversations - amongst pastoralists, between pastoralists and other citizens, students, scholars, artists and government functionaries. Conversations on why our futures are so closely woven with the future of our shrinking grasslands, our indigenous livestock breeds, and the mobile lives of pastoralists.

Through a fusion of testimonies, oral archives, music and poetic forms, crafted narratives, film exhibits and performances, the exhibits gave expression to the fluidity of the pastoralists’ syncretic lives. And their voices reached us through many artistes, scientists, and practitioners, from India and abroad, who grazed across the landscape of this exhibition, and gifted it with their extraordinary talents, skills and knowledge.

For 16 days, amidst the vast green spaces and galleries of IGNCA, this multi curated, multi media exhibition was also accompanied by a range of significant events every day. An Academic conference, stakeholder consultation, pastoral goshtis, student round tables, school workshops, photographer’s colloquium, a film festival.......the back to back events energised the pastoralists, enthused visitors, stimulated students, and exhausted the organizers!

The exhibition has been envisaged to continue as a travelling exhibition - as it travels to other pastoral regions, we promise to gather new narratives, shed some, and hopefully regenerate the ‘commons’ in our lives. 

As many visitors realised and remarked, this exhibition was not an exposition of a forgotten ‘past’. It was a fertile connection with a ‘present’ that lives alongside us. And spoke to us of a ‘future’ that can possibly carry all of us through, even as we grapple with the complex world we have created for our-selves, as we sit heavily on this land!

Sushma Iyengar


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