Aishwarya Arumbakkam: Ka Dingiei
When a community loses land, there is a visible loss of property and livelihood. But there are deeper losses, intangible ones of culture, mythology, knowledge systems and identity that are arguably more valuable.
Re-interpreting a mythical Khasi creature believed to have the power to restore balance in nature, Ka Dingiei is an allegorical exploration: this eponymous series is set in Lama Punji, a Khasi village located at the border of India and Bangladesh. Being an indigenous community, there is a close association between the Khasi identity, their way of life, and the land. Since 1998, this area has been subjected to large-scale destruction through stone- and sand-mining. As an ethnic minority, Khasis don’t have adequate rights or the power to fight corporate bullying. Discriminatory government policies, political backing, legal loopholes, and the lure of development keep the mines running. The resulting erasure is felt not just in the physical and socio-economic landscape but also in the community’s mythical and cultural landscape.
Ka Dingiei is an ongoing project that stands as a testimony to this social injustice and approaches artmaking as an act of resistance and allegiance. It relies on collaboration, an ethos of indigenous narratives, the rejection of traditional representations of victimhood, and long-term community engagement.