Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 64

Maya Mackrandilal b. United States 1985 “Embrace the void, or embrace the land,” says Maya Mackrandilal as she narrates the video Kal/Pani, 2014. We never see her. We only hear her voice. The artist’s poetic words float over a scene of a moving ritual as preparations are made for her maternal grandmother’s funeral on the family’s farm. With bare hands, her aunt washes down large, white concrete aboveground tombs of elders past with generous buckets of water. In this moment of reverence, Mackrandilal tells us, “Nanie asked that we build her tomb high above the ground so the flooding river would not touch her body.” Here, water is trauma. The unpainted tomb in the background belongs to her. The work’s title mirrors the phrase kal pani— Hindi for “dark waters.” It is meant to conjure the dehumanizing system of Indian indentured labor in British Guiana that replaced the brutal enslavement of Africans. Between 1838 and 1917, over 500 ship voyages deposited more than a quarter-million men and women from India to Guiana’s Atlantic coast. They would spend over eight decades toiling on sugar plantations and rice fields. Mackrandilal notes, “They called the sea kal pani, black water. To cross it was a rupture, a separation from the land, from culture, from caste, to be forever outside, forever a nomad.” To produce the video-poem Kal/Pani, Americanborn Mackrandilal returned to Guyana in 2011 to film the rice fields where her Guyaneseborn mother grew up. Like the majority of the indentured laborers who never returned to their motherland India, but made their borrowed land their new home, so too have the artist and her mother laid claim to the United States. Mackrandilal’s mother left Guyana in 1976. “Acres of rice farm in a country we rarely visit… what are we, the generation that exists in the… wake of estrangement, to make of the pieces?” asks Mackrandilal. Two centuries later, the “rupture” created by the initial crossing of the kal pani remains pervasive. It now haunts a second wave of a Trans-Atlantic migration from Guyana to the United States. The video is accompanied by a triptych, Mudra Erasure, 2015 of “mudras”—a Hindi word for the symbolic hand gestures often used in Indian dance. It features anonymous hands holding three food objects unique to the region: a gutted hassa fish, a pierced green coconut, and a halved sapadilla fruit, all of which have been violently ruptured. Maya Mackrandilal Stills from the film, Kal/Pani (previous page), 2014 SD video with sound 8:53 mins Yoni Mudra (above), from the series, Mudra Erasure, 2015 Pigment print on bamboo paper 20 x 26 in. Courtesy of the artist 64 65