A Boat of Dreams, Ideas and Re-imaginations


 The Ambhibian – the uniquely designed bamboo raft conceived as part of the Cultural Re-imaginations project – finally set sail last Sunday. Being part of the small team that had got together for the final journey, I would rate it as a journey of revelations. And why not? It was indeed a journey in the truest sense of the term – a journey which introduced and reacquainted us with our environment and cultural heritage, helping us express our own personal journeys in life and also think about the manner in which they intersect with the larger picture.

 The final journey on the Amphibian, which set sail from Uzanbazar ghat, was the second phase of the Cultural Re-imaginations project as conceived by US-based artist, architect Indrani Barua. In the first phase, she and her assembled team of artisans, writers, artists and creative professionals from various fields had got together with bamboo artisans and started the process of creating a new sustainable habitat that was to be the core of the entire open-ended project. Needless to say, the entire process was ambiguous as there was no final destination in mind yet there was a kind of symmetry in everybody’s functioning as they were all following the natural course of their environment.


 Talking about the project, Indrani says, “Cultural Re-imaginations is a series of cultural interventions conceived as an ongoing experiment in challenging the traditional boundaries between art and architecture, artist and artisan, crafts and arts and towards developing a new, critically engaged hybrid practice that integrates cultural history, architectural traditions and current environmental concerns of the northeast India and beyond, along with creating provocative art that leads to unanticipated interdisciplinary convergence. A floating-habitable raft (Ambhibian) has been developed inspired by the sustainable principles of the itinerant vernacular bamboo rafts (melengs) used in this region on the river Brahmaputra. This new experimental raft has been conceptualized as a ‘social sculpture’ and as a potential ‘sustainable habitat’ that can be anchored like a boat or a ferry.”

  The construction of the raft structure involved collaborative work between bamboo artisans, boat-builders, raft workers and artists over a period of 2 and a half months.

 The raft structure and the performative journeys that began on the Brahmaputra on April 21, 2013 from the Uzaan Baazar ghat to Sualkuchi became ‘an arena’ for impromptu cultural exchanges by performers onboard blurring the boundaries between art and life. Around 35 artists, artisans, architects, folklorists, designers, filmmakers from diverse backgrounds converged on the raft during the journey engaging in performances that ranged from storytelling, dance, music to conversations around social, cultural and environmental issues – in the process creating personal narratives and re-imaginations.

 The performers on board the journey included, besides myself, bamboo craftsperson Alak Bharali, architect Bhaskar Barua, bamboo artisan Biplab Goswami, visual artist Buddhi Thapa, installation artist and folklorist Dilip Tamuly, photojournalist Dhruba Jyoti Dutta, Indrani Baruah, bhot-bhoti driver Manoj Das, environmental activist Masfique Hazarika, journalist and musician Peter Alex Todd, architect Ranel Das, journalist Urmila Bhattacharjee (journalist), folk musician Sanjiv Deori, movement artist Shilpika Bordoloi, media practitioner Sonal Jain, designer and typo-graphist Uday Kumar and visiting/guest fiction writer and art critic from IFA, Moushumi Kandali.

 Indrani further adds, “Conceptualizing the bamboo raft and the collective cultural journey is my personal micro-narrative – trying to create a relative truth that defines the ‘spirit of this place’. My ‘intimate’ perception and imagination of Guwahati and the Northeastern region is closely tied to the ‘invocation’ of the river and the journeys. The river and the journeys are the most ‘imageable’ cultural icons that speak to my imagination and represent an idea that defines the ‘spirit of this place’.”

 As of now, Amphibian is resting on the Uzanbazar ghat, waiting for another soul to come, create and re-imagine his or her own personal narrative.


Posted on May 31, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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