Delhi has some beautiful gems that often remain hidden. For me, photographer Anshika Varma’s exhibit, “The Wall”, brought the phenomenal Delhi Ridge, to light. India’s capital was once a completely forested area, with a slight hilly terrain. Over the years, with development and neglect, the forest has been reduced to a fraction of its original size. The portion that still exists is called the Delhi Ridge, which begins where the Aravalli hills end. Along with other enthusiasts, I recently attended a curated walk of her installation in Jor Bagh.
Anshika Varma’s art installation, “The Wall”
The Ridge is divided into four sections- the Northern Ridge in Old Delhi, the Central Ridge in New Delhi, the South-Central Ridge in Mehrauli, and the Southern Ridge in Tughlaqabad. Certain parts of the forest have been tamed and beautified, but much remains wild and inaccessible. Walls have been built in recent years, ironically using the rocks of the Aravalli hills, around most of the forested area. These walls, ostensibly meant to protect people from the forest, are acting as barriers to hide a dirty reality. According to the artist, the forest is being used as a large dumpsite.
The artist explains her relationship with the Delhi Ridge
Varma’s installation uses various media, such as photos, memory jars with plants and pictures, and a personal journal with photos, sketches and writing. As she grew up in central Delhi, the forest played a major role in her life. She builds a poignant story around the forest’s creatures that would visit in the day, and the sounds she would hear at night. She was deeply affected by the wall blocking out this symbol of her childhood, and photographed all she could to preserve her memories, and capture the beauty of the forest. Her mother, artist Seema Kohli, was also present to share her childhood memories of this Delhi landmark.
The book that was a major attraction in her installation
Varma was ably aided in this session by Kush Sethi, who organizes periodic moonlit walks through Sanjay Van, a portion of the Ridge. His passion for preserving this ancient heritage was clear in his exposition to the group. Together, they explained the prevalent reality with sharp clarity. At the end of the walk, all participants were invited to pen thoughts or memories of the Ridge, and each of these became part of the installation. It certainly was a fitting conclusion, as this forest belongs to all of us.
Our thoughts and memories of the Ridge became part of the installation
This installation was part of a fantastic art exhibition organized by the Gujral Foundation in collaboration with Institut Francais en Inde. Entitled “Indo-French Image Encounters”, it’s been curated by Rahaab Allana and Francois Cheval. Each installation made a strong statement, and I’d highly recommend all art enthusiasts to pay a visit. My favourites were Indu Antony’s “Vincent Uncle”, Baptiste Rabichon’s “Ten Trees”, Asmita Parelkar’s “Still Life”, and Anshika Varma’s “The Wall”.
Glimpses of other installations at the exhibition. “Theatre Land” by Yannick Cormier and “Playgrounds” by Francois Burgun.
“Sparrows- Our Missing Neighbours” by Vibha Galhotra
“Still Life” by Asmita Parelkar
Varma’s installation is enchanting not only for its beautiful raison d’être, but because it captures the magical essence of the forest. She has brought a forgotten relic to life and lent it an ethereal charm. I’m so intrigued that I’ve signed up for the next moonlit walk through the forest. Would you like to join me?
With Anshika Varma
The ‘Indo-French Image Encounters’ exhibition details:
Dates: On till February 25, 2018
Venue: 24, Jor Bagh, New Delhi
Time: 12:00 – 8:00 p.m.
For the Sanjay Van moonlit walks, join the Facebook group “What’s Happening in Sanjay Van”
Anshika Verma can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kush Sethi can be contacted here: email@example.com
Varma’s “The Wall” Installation Rating: 5/5
‘Indo-French Image Encounters’ Exhibition Rating: 4.5/5