Channelising the Yogini energy

by Ekatmata Sharma
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India’s prominent multidisciplinary, contemporary artist Seema Kohli has added a new feather in the vast repertoire of her art forms. She will be connecting with different art forms under the starry sky at the historical Sunder Nursery for a large solo show of her sculptural work along with narrative performance and video art. In a candid conversation with Ekatmata Sharma she shares the conception behind her show “Circle of our own”.

What is the concept behind your narrative performance “Circle of our own: Fragment of our whole”?

Circle of our own: Fragment of our whole” is a narrative performance. I will be performing it on the show’s opening evening accompanied with two video works about my travels at various Yogini sites and temples. “Circle of our own”, it is all about the feminine energy. The feminine energy is shown mythologically and traditionally with sometimes eight, ten, sixteen even 1001 hands. That doesn’t mean that she has so many hands. It means that she always collaborates. Multi-tasking cannot happen without collaboration. The feminine extends itself to another energy and then on to another energy and it continues. Energy always moves in circular motion, it’s never linear.

What is your sculpture show “Circle of our own” all about?

It’s a solo sculptural show I am doing after 10 years. I wanted to come back to my city Delhi with something that really inspires me. This show is all about Yogini’s. Yoginis were carriers of immeasurable Shakti. I really like to talk about it. I have worked on this subject for a very long time. The present work has been developed over years of my meditations within ancient Yogini temples, and extensive research into their plural histories. In the sculptural show, there will be circle of sixty-four Yogini sandstone sculptures and sixty four zinc plates around the Lotus pond accompanied by five alluring sculptures in wood and bronze, manifesting the irrepressible bond between the feminine and the nature. There is a “Kali” sculpture that is 10 feet high. I call her my “Shy Kali”. I made her about 3 years back. Now, she found the place she was wanted to be in, right in the heart of the jungle under the peepal tree. I will be exhibiting sixty four Yogini sculptures maintaining the traditional number of Chausath Yoginis, the female deities revered collectively in temples from the 8th to the 12th Century. Out these 30 sculptures have emerged from my own drawings and the rest are in the traditional temple forms.

How old is your connect with the Yogini energy?

Over the years I have been meditating inside the Yogini temples like Ranipur Jharial (Orissa), Chausath yogini (Jabalpur), Dudhai (U.P.), Naresar temple (M.P.) and many others. I started creating yogini sculptures in 2013 for myself. Over the years, I realized I need to share them. I had put them up on my terrace, where no one could see. Of course I am artist and my language gets completed. I did not want to exhibit these Yoginis in the confines of a gallery as they are such liberated bodies. I wanted to share every bit of it. As an artist my communication gets completed as it reaches the viewer. Till the time I am talking to my images in whichever medium, I want my images to talk to the viewer to complete the cycle. I am talking about every particle that is abundant with energy and creating things. If you want and really desire the Universe will make it happen for you. Those unseen energies which are abundantly in the Universe and they are the one that make it happen. Mythically there is a lot that has been written about Yoginis. I don’t consider them as myth. These are very potent energies and something which existed. It is very contemporary.

How do you resonate with the energy of Sunder Nursery?

Sunder Nursery is the right space for “Circle of our own”, as its abundant in nature with water-bodies, forest, trees, bees, butterflies, birds, lotus pond and all natural elements. The history of the place – is about the Ganga and Yamuna tehzeeb of Delhi, the fact that Delhi is only about sharing and love. It is a very fluid kind of space that sort of adopts everything. That was the most important part of this place. It’s a tribute to all the historical figures, the kings, the emperors and the prophets of Delhi. Aga Khan Foundation has restored it aesthetically; they haven’t tried to contemporize anything. They have tried to maintain the ethnicity and that goes with my work. The whole idea of ethnicity and holding down the tradition, the values of old times and bringing it forward to the contemporary life is a very important aspect that connected with the whole concept of mine. The Yogini sculptures are all around the Lotus Pond in Sunder Nursery. The Yogini temples and sites that I have visited, where they used to sit and meditate and connect with the nature are closer to the water body. We are lucky to have this vast expanse of forest land in heart of the city. Being in the heart of the city, it still secludes you. The moment you enter you the space, it cuts you off from the hustle bustle of the city. That is itself is very meditative.

How challenging is it as an artist to bring out your art in the public sphere and make people understand it?

Yoginis is a very difficult subject. It is challenging to make people understand it. People usually don’t connect with it. They think it’s a very traditional religious concept. But, I am taking it to a very contemporary philosophical space where I question people to see this energy and feminine form and everything around it. And also understand the feminine to be as living as any other thing. The feminine has the magic of procreation in it. I feel it is now time when feminine is breaking out to the world. It is not only in our tradition, it is also relevant in the contemporary times in the physical form and also the physiological form.

Exhibition Opening: 16 Nov 2019 I 5 pm onwards
Live – Narrative Performance by Seema Kohli I 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Performance Title: ‘A Circle of Our Own: Fragment of the Whole’
Performance Venue: Garden Amphitheatre, Sunder Nursery
Exhibition Viewing: 17 Nov 2019 – 16 Feb 2020 I From Sunrise to Sunset.
Venue: Sunder Nursery, Opposite Humayun’s Tomb
Nizamuddin, New Delhi.

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