Sarika Kumari’s project revolves around the study of temporary shops in Santiniketan, a small town north of the city of Kolkata, in West Bengal, which hosts the large and prestigious Visva-Bharati University where she received a Master’s degree in Fine Arts.
The life of temporary shops in a small town in West Bengal
Local temporary shops in Santiniketan, like the tea stalls, have some typicality in them. They are very different from such shops in other places. I started observing and studying those shops. Every aspect of their lives fascinates me and is shown deliberately in my works.
These shops are not build up permanently, but rather temporarily, to provide some livelihood to the people who sell their wares from them. In Santiniketan a tea stall is not a mere shop where one can get tea or some tea time snacks, but it is an integral part of people’s everyday lives.
I want to portray this typicality in my works in an expressive manner, so that we can feel the atmosphere of the shops in this very special town. I am trying to capture, for example, the atmosphere surrounding a stall in a particularly small area: the old wooden benches in front of it, the glass jars with local homemade biscuits on the shelves, the dirty old calendars with images of Hindu deities hanging from them, the clay stove generating a great deal of smoke, they all create a very unique and interesting feeling of liveliness. Most of the shops use materials like plastic and tin for their short-term existence, and the temporary walls which support the stalls.
That is why I have used plastic sheets, instead of canvas, as painting surfaces. I have also recently started site specific installations, using the temporary doors and walls of these shops, trying to merge the two-fold reality, the real shop and the representation of it, in a single space.
The way the shops get congested or expanded within a time interval, according to the many daily activities in and around them, from opening in the morning to closing at night, is the main theme of my work. Their continuous and repetitive ways are what inspire me.
My work is an attempt to show the role these shops are playing for the students and the town's people, to show the way we look at them, ignoring the humble vendors who are serving us every day.
We buy tea morning and evening, for example; the vendor at the tea stall is an essential part of our surroundings, but in our eyes he has no individual life; he is merely a supplier of tea. So are the snack vendor, the pakora cooker, the bike repairman...
India is a land of many social /economic groups, and too often we have little idea of how other groups live.
See Sarika's whole series here.