CHENNAI: The Sunday footfall was only slowly beginning at Spencer Plaza when chairs and a refreshment counter were laid out at the atrium, for an event in observation of World Wildlife Conservation Day. A sculptural installation titled ‘Kalpavriksha’, a work by Shalini Biswajit, director and curator of Forum Art Gallery, was unveiled by Rotarian N Nandakumar.
A metal tree
The atrium, acoustically ill-suited for such an event, was soon witness to echoing voices clashing against each other, and Shalini was quick to make symbolic use of the phenomenon, as she expressed hope that the message of her artwork would create a similar echo in the city. “Rotarian Ajit Nair approached me several months ago to create an installation using water as a central theme, and I was elated to do it.” The work, made primarily of scrap metal with the occasional water tap as a fixture here and there, is in line with several of her earlier works in terms of the material she engages with, and many of which are now in the permanent collection of the Integral Coach Factory, Perambur.
She proceeded to explain her latest work, “Kalpavriksha, as you all know, means the tree of life. It is a tree that is an unlimited source of joy and energy as well as being a wish-fulfilling tree. So I conceived this work as a tree that fulfils our never-ending need for water. Water, as we know it, has several sources of origin, and travels through several tributaries to finally reach us.” While we tap into this natural resource — hence the tap motif in the artwork — she added that we fail to give it the kind of reverence it deserves. The installation, she said, was a call for the present generation to use water judiciously so that future generations will not have to face conditions like draughts and famines.
The tap motif is also intended to remind people of how precious water is, Shalini added. “The next time you see a water tap, I hope it will remind you of the importance of making judicious use of water,” she added. The sculpture will be permanently installed outside Spencer Plaza for public view and brightly lit during night hours, and Shalini said she hoped the installation would invite wider engagement with the public about the themes it hopes to address. She also called upon the Rotary Club, which had facilitated the project, to conduct more such initiatives across Tamil Nadu and ensure that awareness regarding water conservation reaches all ears. “The action is now or never, because there’s no Planet B,” she added.
Plea for ecological restoration
The inauguration was followed by a symposium on ecosystem restoration. The global theme of this year’s Wildlife Conservation Day being ‘Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration’, Krupashankar M, regional director of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, took to the podium to speak on the issue.
While hailing efforts like the recent reintroduction of the cheetah into Indian habitat, he urged the audience to remember that there are several species on earth whose existence is crucial not just for the well-being of humans, but for that of the planet as well. “Nobody has forgotten the ravages wrought on us by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several families have undergone suffering, be it because of the lockdown or of losing a loved one to the pandemic. It is one of the consequences of the mismanagement of wildlife. Several theories have associated its origins with the pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world,” he said.
Krupashankar also highlighted the widespread practice of animal trafficking. Several species of mammals, birds and reptiles are trafficked from India’s natural forests to several parts of the world and cited numerous instances where airport officials intercepted animals stuffed live into luggage boxes in an effort to traffic them. “It is essential that each of us contribute in some small way towards making life on earth sustainable, both for us and for wildlife,” he concluded, hoping that his words would have reverberated not just acoustically.
The event, which saw participation from Water Mission, an initiative of the Rotary Club, Prakruthi Foundation, and real estate firm Mangal Tirth, later in the afternoon held a tree walk at the Directorate of Public Instruction Campus.