Tiger of the woods has entered the urban jungle. The ‘endangered’ cat has become an icon for telecom brands, eco-tourism sponsors, art aficionados, page-3 pin-ups and is now all set to paint Delhi’s landscape in 58 different avatars. SUPRIYA SHARMA tells you how...
As the Chinese Year of the Tiger comes to a close, the the Capital decides to strengthen its tiger ties a little more. Artiger, one of Delhi’s biggest outdoor art events, will have 58 life-size fiberglass tigers festooning parks, hospitals, malls, metro stations and multiplexes for the next three months. The project brings together 58 artists and 56 corporate houses to raise funds for the Ranthambore Foundation that works in the field of tiger conservation. India Art Summit is also supporting the project by allotting a public exhibition space at the Summit in January 2011. Each participating artist has worked on a pre-fabricated tiger and come up with ‘roaring’ results. “Delhi will experience art in open spaces for three months. Collectors will get unusual work by great artists at great value and the tiger gets talked about! What can be better?” asks Delhi-based NGO owner Nandita Kathpalia Baig, one of the three organisers of the show, the other two being art collector Swapan Seth and art curator Aprajita Jain.
What came first... tiger pugmarks, elephant footprints or bear claw marks? Well, it is difficult to say, since animal art parades have been a trend abroad for as long as one can remember. While Artiger has roots in the famous Elephant Parade London - the only charity solely dedicated to ensuring the survival of the Asiatic elephant - there is also the famous Cow Parade, Buddy Bears and Lions of Bath, all public art events held to raise funds for endangered animals. Local and international artists painted, sculpted and re-engineered fiberglass cows into forms never seen before at Bucharest this year, one of the 25 other cities that has hosted Cow Parades around the world, while a giant pride of 100 life-size lion sculptures took up residence in the World Heritage City of Bath from May to October in a unique cultural event to raise funds for local charities.
“This is a universal movement and Delhi is lucky to be a part of it,” adds photographer Rohit Chawla who has made a tribal tiger in terracotta wash and Warli style of painting for Artiger.
For budding artist Trishla Jain, this project is not solely about the tiger, but the larger eco-system. She depicts evolution by adding tribal metal sculptures of deer, bear, monkey, giraffe and bird on the tiger’s body. “My tiger is a larger icon. It includes all five elements of nature,” she says. Well-known mixed-media artist Mithu Sen has painted her tiger black and pasted collages on it. What stands out in her sculpture is the oversized mouth of the cat made from dental polymers. “My tiger is a hybrid of human teeth and animal body. It shows the grotesqueness of human beings,” says Sen. One of the most hard-hitting versions is by lensman Samar Jodha who has marked his tiger with photographic scans of the bare hands of men, women and children who, for want of better opportunities, choose to live off tiger poaching in various parts of India. Some of the hands featured belong to those who have undergone jail sentences or face charges for killing tigers.
Cause It Is 'In'
There is a tiger all around us, be it in TV commercials, handicraft bazaars, docu-dramas or celebrities endorsing ‘save the tiger’ campaigns. While Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the pledge to save tigers in Uttarakhand, Hollywood hottie Leonardo DiCaprio pledged to donate $1 million to World Wildlife Fund for tiger conservation. Early this year, Bhutan unveiled a set of stamps to mark the beginning of the Lunar Tiger Year. Revered as a religious icon in Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche is known to ride a tiger to reach Takstang, the famed tiger’s nest monastery. Graphic artist Pushkar Thakur who has coated his tiger figurine in multiple hues of blue, yellow and green for Artiger senses the tiger craze too. Though he is cynical at the same time. “It is a fad right now. Earlier it was Global Warming, now it is the tiger. Everybody wants to jump onto the bandwagon,” he says. Jodha feels that one party that is minting money out of tiger conservation is fancy resort owners. Must be, considering out of more than 50 eco lodges audited by international organisation Travel Operators for Tigers, the top slot went to two Indian eco tiger lodges! Ironically, just as the resort count goes up, tiger population is drastically falling in India.
The tiger fever rubbed off on ace cinematographer S Nallamuthu too, but in a whole new way. Dreading another ‘save the tiger’ film on how the cat walks, mates, sits and eats, Nallamuthu instead captured the unseen side of this animal. His docu on tigers, called The Tiger Queen, which was screened at The Environment Film Festival 2010 at the IIC, looks at the downfall of Ranthambore’s famed tigress, Machhli. There is rivalry, violence, stealth and sex… all rolled into this unusual tale of supremacy and vengeance of tigers. A longer version of the film, probably in 3-D, is also being planned for a theatre release with PVR. Well, it seems Delhi has an upper paw when it comes to tiger awareness for sure!
- Unleash your tiger love with this rug by Animania, a series of products designed by Design Temple, available at Good Earth, Khan Market, Select Citywalk
- This is the closest you get to tigers in food. Sample some Moroccan pesto-rubbed tiger prawns or tiger prawns and snapper fillet served with tomato caper butter at Soak, Ravi Bajaj Building, Block N Market, GK-1
- You could also accessorise your sofa with these stately tiger cushions in silk by Zaza Home, 25-26, Community Centre, Zamrudpur
- Try world-renowned Cambay tiger prawns @ Le Marche, G 65 and 66, Select Citywalk Mall, Saket
- Visit ‘Cats on Canvas’, an exhibit of paintings of cats in oil and mixed-media by Radhika Doraiswamy, IIC, on till Dec 24
Delhi's Tiger Safari
In an effort to save the tiger, 58 renowned artistes recently came together in Delhi to work on life-size fiberglass tigers, no wonder the name of the project then – Artiger. We asked Swapan Seth, one of the three organisers, about the concept. “The idea is a stolen one,” he joked and added, “Actually, we were inspired by the London Elephant Parade and thought why not do something similar for tigers in India. When we started, we were told that it would be very difficult to get artistes to work on these tigers, but our experience was different. All the artistes readily agreed to be a part of this cause.” Nandita Baig and Aparajita Jain were the co-organisers and were spotted speaking to the guests at this do.
At this brunch held on a sunny Sunday afternoon, 57 art tiger sculptures were allotted to the 56 participating corporates, to be displayed at 52 public locations. Anjolie Ela Menon’s tiger wasn’t allotted in the draw as it had already been selected to be presented to the Gandhi family. The allotment was on a random basis, where two chits were pulled out together – one from a box with the names of the artistes, and the second from a box containing the names of the participating corporates. The funds raised from the corporates will be donated to the Ranthambore Foundation for tiger conservation. All 58 tigers will be displayed at Rashtrapati Bhawan till December 27 after which, they’ll be placed at various public locations across the city for three months.
This public art initiative was attended by the who’s who of the city, including Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra. Namrata Joshipuraand and Neera Nath told us that Rekha Rodwitya’s art tiger was their fave, while Kalyani Chawla wished for a more colourful tiger for herself and said she was in love with Trishla Jain’s art tiger. “I like the concept of having all animals on the tiger’s back other than the colours,” she said.
Samar Jodha, whose tiger was done up in red and had hand prints all over it, also created an audio to go with it. Why the hands, we asked him. “These are the hands of the poachers,” he replied. While the guests heartily appreciated the initiative, it was best summed up in Swapan’s words. He said, “May the talent of artistes continue to build what our collective selfishness has destroyed.”