Art

Kari, an exhibition of photographs by Praveen Mohandas in Thiruvananthapuram, zooms in on elephants

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas   | Photo Credit: S Mahinsha

The snaps, taken at Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, celebrates elephants in the wild even as it ponders on the future of these creatures

Huge trees with leafy branches stretching towards the sky form an arch-like canopy resembling a cathedral while a herd of elephants, minuscule in comparison with the grand matriarchal trees, seem to be nestling under its protective cover, a symbol of the deep symbiotic existence in a jungle.

One of the standout exhibits of ‘Kari’, an exhibition of 15 black-and-white photographs on the elephant by architect-photographer Praveen Mohandas, is an artistic interpretation of the life of elephants and “its past, present and future”.

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas   | Photo Credit: S Mahinsha

Heavy, deep tyre markings on a riverbed seem to define the margins for a pug mark next to the large footprint of an elephant in another photograph that hints at the grim future of wildlife on our planet.

Praveen’s frames play up the elephant’s size and strength and its intelligence even as it mourns the fate of elephants shackled by man. His pictures are not of caparisoned elephants or those at work but of the jumbos in the wild: playing, feeding, striding and resting.

Story of survival

Shot in the Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, the photographs have been divided into three based on “the elephant’s size, memory and destiny”. “Kari in Malayalam can also mean elephant. It also refers to the colour of the animal. Will future generations be able to see this magnificent creature in the wild? Man’s intrusion into its homelands has put its life in peril,” says Praveen. The first section highlights the dimension of the largest mammal on land, its unique physical features and its life in the grasslands of the Park. “The elephant’s trunk, which is used for feeding and as a tool of communication, is merely one of its special features. So, I have highlighted that in a couple of snaps,” says Thrissur-based Praveen.

A photograph depicting a trunk of an adult elephant resting on a calf is an eloquent one that pays tribute to its maternal instincts while another photograph shows a mighty tusker with only one tusk. Stained and chipped with age, it is a magnificent tusk that evokes questions about the missing tusk. “Was it broken in a duel or stolen by poachers? Is it a struggle for him to live with one tusk? Or was it broken in a man-animal encounter?” wonders Praveen.

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas

Kari, an exhibition of photographs on wild elephants by Praveen P Mohandas   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Over the years, Praveen has seen the effects of man’s intervention on the natural habitat of the animal. Showing a stark photograph of a reflection of a herd walking beside a shrinking river with its exposed river bed, he says that he recalls a time when the river was in spate before a dam on its upper course curbed its vitality. “And it is their search for fodder and water that forces them to come close to settlements on the fringe of forests. Immediately, it is termed as man-animal conflicts and, as we know, it is always the four-legged creatures that get the raw deal,” says Praveen.

The section termed ‘memory’ zooms into the elephant’s ability to live together in the herd and fend for each other. Calves gambol while adults walk together companionably with the herd. In the last section, which Praveen calls ‘destiny, concerns on existence’, is the only installation of the show. Clanking of chains, chatter and barked instructions signify the majestic animal’s life in captivity. “The viewers’ reflection on the glass-framed visuals symbolises the human contribution to the destiny of an animal no less important than us”, states a printed leaflet put up by Praveen to explain the gist of his snaps.

The exhibition is on till March 16 at Longtime Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 2:38:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/kari-an-exhibition-of-photographs-zooms-in-on-the-elephants/article31040806.ece

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