Fort Kochi, Dec 2: Artists and the general audience at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 will hear Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam, M.I.A as she is popularly known, perform for the first time in India Dec 11 at the event’s inauguration.
A British artist-musician of Tamil descent, M.I.A’s name is the acronym for “Missing in Action” (in a conflict). She named herself in memory of a cousin who died in Sri Lanka during the ethnic violence in that island nation.
For her music, M.I.A has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize. Her albums, Arular and Kala, were received to critical acclaim.
M.I.A has a degree in fine arts from London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. For the Kochi biennale she has made a series of 10 brightly coloured lenticular print collages, eight feet long, framed with hand-crafted mirror mosaics to capture the funky spirit of a rapidly changing India.
Her work reflects the diversity of cultures she has been exposed to: her Sri Lankan Tamil origin, Indian connections, British upbringing and political keenness make her especially suited to rally for oppressed people in Palestine, Africa and Sri Lanka.
The 37-year-old artist recalled that the first 11 years of her life were lived under the shadow of ethnic strife. Her father had joined the Tamil separatist movement in Sri Lanka, and the family was forced into hiding.
She recalled living in poverty on the streets and watching “Sri Lankan soldiers firing inside school rooms”.
Her prints at the Kochi biennale are arranged with custom-made holograms and silkscreen designs. The works are built of layers of saturated digital colour and reflective light-catching surfaces, supporting three-dimensional images of parrots, jungle foliage and gemstones superimposed with photographs of crowds, children and cars.
Explaining M.I.A’s art, Shwetal Ashvin Patel, executive officer of the Kochi biennale, told IANS: “The mix of ancient and traditional icons with ultra-modern digital surfaces was a representation of Maya’s experience of a new India”.
For her works at the biennale, M.I.A “commissioned wholesale print factories from cities across India to produce multiples of her designs”, a spokesperson for the artist told IANS.
The large-format three-dimensional lenticular images have been made in Mumbai by a commercial advertising company. Her holographic prints have been made in a Chennai factory that produces tamper-proof security stickers for use on credit cards and banknotes worldwide.
The silkscreen printings were made by a local poster business owner in Kochi and the mirror frames are crafted by hand by her uncle, who flew to Kochi to help her work with the craftspeople of Kerala.
Maya uses strencils, spray paints and glimpses of conflicts to make violent images of repression and war, and transposes similar images to the covers of her albums.
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, featuring 88 artists from 35 countries in the old Jewish spice posts of Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Kochi City and Muziris, will end March 13.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)