Walls walls walls

Drawing, India, Painting

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Fort Cochin has the best walls I have ever seen. The first one I see is opposite our guesthouse, where we arrive late at night. It is the wall of the offices for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which none of us knew existed until we came here. It is painted with an intricate mural of interlocking shapes creating vibrant figures in movement and transformative dance. While we are here, we ask questions about the biennale; find out that it is a huge international event. We piece together galleries, artists, a catalogue and residencies to form a map of an ambitious and visionary event. There are beautiful high ceilinged galleries next to crumbling buildings overtaken with vines and creepers. Everything is alive here, everything grows, and nothing is what you expect.
In the morning, we walk down streets with ancient walls made of brick, plaster, and layers and layers of paint. Each layers moves, cracks and is held together with moss and vines. Texts are erased by green growth and rain and heat. The word clad comes to mind; one layer is clad with another, and another, until they bulge with time, addition and decay.
There have been some graffitti artists here, and I can only presume it is they who have left paste ups of pink leopards and women weaving in paper on these painterly surfaces. They must have been put up a few weeks ago, although it could have been days because of the hot, wet climate which roughs up paper pretty fast I imagine. Parts of them have been sloughed away, so that the images become part of the pinks and ochres layered underneath.
I don’t like to photograph people while I travel. Without their consent that is. I feel like it’s part of a colonial sense of entitlement to feel it is your right to snap away without any consent from those you take a photograph of. I think the last picture I took was many years ago, of a woman in her hijab in Morroco. Her glare was fierce and furious, and I was sure I never wanted to do that again. Confronted with my own lightness of looking by her rightful possession of her own body, I felt ashamed and wished I could give her image back to her. I had no right to it.
So my images are of walls. To me, they are intensely beautiful. They show the actions of people, weather and time. They are enough of a record of this place.

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