A Chinese philosopher once said, “The mark of a successful man is one who has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” Imagine saying that for Yamuna, considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
To sensitise Delhi citizens, an outreach project Yamuna-Elbe: public art outreach is being organised by the Max Mueller Bhavan, in association with the Delhi government and the Goethe-Institut in Hamburg, Germany. Incidentally, this year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between India and Germany.
Co-curated by Ravi Agarwal, Delhi artist-environmentalist and Till Krause, a land artist from Hamburg, this collaborative project is based on the idea of creating sustainable rivers in cities. Both the Elbe and the Yamuna are central to Hamburg and Delhi’s futures.
Agarwal says the Yamuna is the reason for Delhi’s location, and is the main water recharge area for the entire city. While believing that Yamuna can be made as clean as any European river, he says the idea behind the art is to enable people to think ‘out of the box’.
Sheba Chhachhi, whose work depicts the future version of the river finds it unfortunate that Delhi seems to have forgotten about its river. “I wish people came to the river for more than just rituals.” The outreach project is an eco-friendly one, using solar energy and electrically operated vans for transport to site and usage of recyclable material for production of artworks. Artist Atul Bhalla, whose work was shown in Hamburg, says that the project is about the city’s relation with water. His work is inspired from Mahabharata, where a series of questions and answers between Yudhisthira and a river ensued. “I was fascinated and decided to reformulate some of those questions for our times.”
Environmentalist Vimlendu Jha who has been organising environmental walks since a decade feels it’s important for citizens to explore the riverfront. “Yamuna becomes dirty within 5 km of entering Delhi. When I ask school-kids where they get water in their houses from, they say overhead tank. We need to change that thought.” Artist Gigi Scaria, whose works deal with the socio-political and architectural spaces of Delhi, has worked on an installation — a fountain in the shape of apartments. It’ll have a water pump with a filtering device that cleans up the water. “The idea is to make people aware that a dead river like Yamuna can be revitalised through care and attention.”
The Yamuna–Elbe: Public Art Outreach project will be held from Nov 9-20 at the Golden Jubilee Park near the Old Yamuna Bridge.