so about a week ago,
I had just about woken up one morning when Raghava KK (an amazing artist and total inspiration) came over with Lakshmi (the organizer and anchor of TED india and now the INK conference) and took a look at some of my work.
Sleepily I showed them some of the things that I'd be working on and they asked me to be an INK/ted Fellow!
So in 72 sleepless hours, I put together a talk and found myself in Lavasa!
It was quite an honour to be the 21st fellow at 21!!
It was a year long process that included a short-list of 400 people and being found and chosen so close to the show was unbelievable!
My macbook crashed on me the day I got back, and with it I lost my final script. But this is what I can remember of it. the video should be up soon. :)
my mother Nilofer Suleman, who is now a fine artist, started her journey as a cartographer…and perhaps my journey began there too.As a child I'd spend hours pouring over those maps, watching her create rivers and mountains with her fingers. and each name delicately ink-spelt would become a gilded gateway to an entire glowing world of pirates and shipwrecks and kingdoms that lurked (and still lurk) in my imagination.
I've been doing lots of reading about Children using fantasy as a form of escapism.
Burdened by the brutality and unending trials of the real world, a child constructs a world of
images as a security blanket.But yknow? I'm not so sure about that.
I don't think as children we see the difference between what is real and what is imagined because everyday is a discovery of a fantastic world. As far as I remember- It wasn't all that bad being a child. Infact - I didn't know what I believed and what I didn't. My ideologies and theories weren't set in stone. there was an experience
with no judgement attached to it. One dreams. without saying 'I am a dreamer'.
It was egoless. I believed the moon followed me home every night.
And when I was told what actually happened- I was equally fascinated! Imagine! hundreds and billions and trillions of stars and moons and planets going round and round each other endlessly! ceaselessly!
Or when one is told 'plants don't move but animals do' one doesn't know what to believe because one has seen all of motion and all of action and reaction in the closing and opening of a very shy touch-me-not plant.
When I started painting at 12, I would spill ink bottle after ink bottle on paper and watched as it snaked and morphed into images without my mind directing it. sometimes scribbling out illegible words in notebooks, other times becoming teeth and eyes that would stare out at me..
Here's some of my older work
Now, naive as I may be- I don't think this kid has within her- that
So when I was a leeedle girl. and people would ask me how I thought of these images, I'd say "it came to me"
But here we find ourselves talking about an invisible entity- What came to me?
I'm not prepared to answer what or WHO it is that comes to us when we're looking for inspiration…some call it god, some call it the universe, some call it love, Jung called it the unconscious, Rushdie calls it the Ocean of Notions, The Sea of Stories. and I don't think i can put this giant source of ideas
into the little box of a word or sentence.
Another beautiful thing was that when I was a child, me and my friends would spend hours and hours creating invisible worlds that somehow we both could see!
It's amazing isn't it? Creating worlds that two people could imagine together
I didn't wan't to stop sharing those worlds, and so I found myself drawn towards illustrating books for children.
What fascinated me about the images in childrens book is that each painting would become a paper boat setting off into forests where crows speak, into towers where lovers are united,
and into the wheezing yellow ambassador of a man with a curly mustache.
and like a child, when illustrating, I find myself lost in these watercolour wonderlands,
Being swallowed up and spit out a couple of hours later.
I was in a village in North Rajasthan a year or two ago and Mukhtiar
Ali- A sufi singer in the Kabir tradition was speaking to me about how
nothing has changed since the time of the mahabharat.
Dritirashtra was blind and so Sanjaya became his eyes and told him of
the happenings on the battle field.
Which is, in one sense, what a television screen does.
Arjuna was thirsty and he shot an arrow into the ground and water came out.
which is no different from what we do now to extract drinking water
out of the earth.
Chariots in the sky are much like aeroplanes aren't they?
And so the conclusion was
Magic has been replaced by machinery.
This made me sad, I didn't understand why magic and wonder and joy had to be replaced by keyboards and mouses. If anything, technology should enable magic. Not kill it.
I saw this happening in me too, I was afraid that if I got sucked into an Iphone
I wouldn't notice the crow that had been following my train for three hours.
And thus began Khoya as a way of getting over this new found fear of touch-screens.
Khoya is the hindi word for lost
It's an interactive book for children about a dystopic world (like most worlds these days)
and uses a technology called Augmented Reality.
(see Older Posts for more about Khoya)
What Augmented Reality basically does is that it adds a digital layer on top of what we see in our screen
through the use of visual recognition and a webcam.
So hidden inside the book are black and white symbols along with a riddle, while reading the book, one picks up these markers, logs onto the khoya website and sees oneself (through the use of a webcam) on screen. When the marker is put in front of the screen, a digital animated layer is added on top of what we see.
So in some places, one sees oneself transform into a character in the book,
in other cases one has a creature from the book perched atop one's shoulder whispering secrets into one's ear.
(at this point i showed a live demonstration of how AR works.
But beyond Technology, beyond my work, what I'm here to remind myself and remind all of us about is Childhood. That wonder, that joy that I don't want to look back at with faded jaded nostalgia but want to bring back. Through art, through love and through living.
I end with a quote by EE cummings,
|'love is a place|
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
yes is a world
& in this world of
all worlds '
photograph by Nikhil Velpanur
I'd like to thank Lakshmi, Raghava KK, Nikhil Velpanur, Chell, Shanna
Avijit Michael, Gayatri Ganju, Diya Pinto, Dhruv, Mana D, All the Pinks,
alll of you who are reading this post, the ever conspiring universe, all the other fellows
And above all
my mother Nilofer Suleman.
It's been humbling,inspiring and blissful. :)
Much love Always