Karuppu Nir(Black Water)
Lucelle. B. Pillay. Karuppu Nir (Black Water). 2023. India Ink on Clear PVC (1.5x1m)
'Karuppu Nir' means 'Black Water' in the language called Tamil, a dialect spoken by the inhabitants of South India. Most of the Indentured Labourers came from this region and were of low caste (low social status). Historic accounts tells stories of coercive tactics employed to get people onto the ships. Encountering ocean travel for the first time, the labourers and their families were terrified and referred to the sea as 'Karuppu Nir'. The conditions onboard the ships were horrendous, with many people dying of illness, committing suicide or drowning. The artist attempts to replicate their dark and treacherous journey in the form of a timeline made up of layers of India Ink washes. The technique of allowing each wash to dry over several days, mirrors the concept of the 'temporal journey' into the past. In order to maintain the liquid effects of the ink on smooth PVC requires, it is trapped and left to dry under clear acetate. This resembles a microscopic slide, as if a biological investigation into the cellular memory of our ancestral fears. The washes darken as the layers build up, the organic dispersion and spread of the ink conceptually resembles the diasporic spread of Indian peoples in South Africa.