Indra’s Bow

October 2016 – 27 August 2017, MTG, Napier

The God Indra, of Indian Mythology, has dominion over the rains – no small thing in a land where the arrival of the monsoon can mean the difference between life and death. His bow, the rainbow, is his weapon in combat with the Asuras of inclement weather and drought; his ammunition, lightning bolt arrows.

Artists Tiffany Singh and Jo Blogg have rendered the heavenly rainbow in earthly materials, elevating the ordinary to the sublime in an immersive installation that explores the nature of light, culture and ritual.

The white box space is entered via a short walkway that places the participant at the centre of a half mandala, an arc that radiates from yellow through the spectrum to orange in bold shapes and hues, created with a mixture of rice and Holi powder, multi-coloured dried pigments that are mixed with water and thrown with joy and abandon in the Hindu Spring Festival.

The rainbow motif is carried throughout, even in the strings that suspend clear glass globes containing items that could be found in a typical Hindu household, for sustenance, cleansing, adornment and worship. The colours flow from dark to light upward, and clockwise from red to purple. Spices, Lentils, Flowers, Herbs, Shells, Feathers and Crystals are among some of the materials they hold up to the light and invite us to appreciate their beauty as well as their utility. A sense of reverence is created by supplicant statues, clay diya, fruits and flowers, instruments of worship placed with intention throughout the space.

The experience of stepping into Indra’s Bow is inherently sensual – while the visual aspect is immediately arresting. Touch and taste are piqued by the variety of foods and textures on display, and the scent is subtle – no heady incense here, but a fragrant mix of herbs and spices and flowers that evokes walking into a living space.

Even the sound, though unintentional, feels appropriate: the muffled strains of God Save the King from the neighbouring Gallipoli exhibit a reminder of the ubiquity of colonialism, faint and incongruent but present all the same.

There is also a muted dynamism: the gentle movement of the glass vessels, the scattered flowers and imperfectly dyed statues give the impression that a ritual is in progress and that by entering the space we are not a spectator but a participant. For without an arrow the bow is merely an ornament; through experiencing what has been created we are imbued with a lightning-bolt-like energy that we will radiate into the world.

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