Chilika Lake comes under artistic lens in Pinaki Ranjan Mohanty’s works

by Team ACF
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Artist Pinaki Ranjan Mohanty has been a witness to the ecological and environmental disaster Lake Chilika has borne over the years, thanks to the profiting ‘prawn’ culture and apathy of the state government. After documenting the change around the Lake for over two years, he now aims to raise awareness among masses about the damage. Predictably, he would be disseminating this message through artistic engagements — a site-specific installation and a performance piece. Read on to know more…


Can you elaborate on your research project that you would be working on using The Serendipity Arts Foundation Grant?

I have spent the last 2 years extensively documenting this change around Lake Chilika by means of photographs, videos, audio recordings, collecting found objects, etc. These form the basis of an extensive archive that takes up a substantial part of my village home. With the SAF Grant, I intend to complete the research phase of my project ‘Chilika Dialogues’. With this project, I hope to create an awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by Lake Chilika and other water bodies around the world through a series of visual artworks.

Your engagement with environmental concerns stems from your growing up years near Lake Chilika. What kind of changes did you see at the Lake and what aspects of those transformations deeply affected your creative sensibilities?

Chilika is my motherland. I grew up around it. My childhood memories of this place take me to a waterscape and landscape which is lost now and completely changed. As a result of the growing economical market of shrimps, a new sector called prawn culture emerged. People started encroaching into the lake and barricade surroundings as their private property. Prawn culture has massively affected Chilika’s ecology, biodiversity and environment. Another major change is caused by an upsurge in tourism and the implementation of Chilika development policies by Odisha government. These scenarios brought a huge change in the life of the local community. Chilika was praised by poets, writers and writers for its scenic beauty. Reading the literary pieces creates a visual of beauty in my imagination. Today if I follow the literary trails I don’t find the same visual. Catching these changing notions of beauty in and around Chilika, following the trail of a bygone era, has been the central mode of concern and an inspiration in my creative journey.

For the project, you are planning to work closely with people who have previously worked on the Lake, besides engaging locals. How do you envision the final outcome and what would be the core areas you would be working on? As with so many voices coming together, the danger of narrative being getting lost can’t be rooted out.

In this grant period, site-specific installations will be created using local material and found objects in the vicinity of the Lake Chilika. They will draw inspiration from the research funded by the grant. This is especially true for a performance piece which will draw its questions from the research. The artworks will generate curiosity, speculation and understanding among the numerous stakeholders of the lake, including tourists, the government and NGOs. The video recordings and audio pieces will be shared in suitable gallery spaces to build interest in the unfolding ecological disaster at Chilika. It will also highlight our increasing need to preserve our water bodies globally and understand their importance and value through the prism of our rich literature and folklore. I don’t think that including many scholars and people will lose track of my narration. Because the conversations with the scholars and people will be focused on my areas of documentation and research. The process intends to create a bridge between their research areas and my research area guided by certain concerns and issues.

How has The Serendipity Arts Foundation Grant helped in fueling your artistic ambitions?

I feel delighted to receive this grant. This has helped my artistic practise enormously. I belong to a small place and my works are also based and inspired by Chilika. This grant helped me to present my work and my place to an international platform. I can tell my stories in a platform like this which will drag the attention of global people in Chilika.

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