Reclaim and Re-imagine

Reclaim and Reimagine.

Reclaim and Re-imagine is a body of work that is a playful exploration of combining various mediums in order to establish a clear stance on Anti- Casteism. Patel draws from caste-based occupations and skillsets, implementing them within her self-portraiture and building a relationship of healing from casteism.

This journey began with a veil over caste, as Patel had been protected from the trauma of caste under the shelter of her family within the UK. She has been raised in Britain and surrounded in a catholic environment most of her childhood, a distance away from the hazy memory of her cultural homeland. As a result, her upbringing involved simply hearing the whispers of the horrors from external members in the South Asian community, while further being questioned about her identity, as well as her positioning in this caste-construct. Throughout this project, Patel has drawn from this quote and has implemented these themes within her work.

“You see the connections between the land, the bodies of people of colour, and predatory industrialism. All of that is what needs to be addressed and healed as we move forward.” – Soundararajan T., The Trauma of Caste

As a member of the Indian diaspora, she initially believed that living in a distant land wouldn’t be harmed from such injustice, inequity and trauma. However, as blood runs thick, the bloodshed and ongoing suffering of caste-oppressed people continues. Patel started her journey of learning to unwind this complex, entangled thread of caste, reclaiming and reimagining her dual identity in the process.

Throughout this challenging project, she has engaged with meaningful conversation with family and friends in regard to the matter, addressing caste-based discrimination that they may have experienced, whilst discovering her ancestral roots in relation to caste. In addition, Patel finds ways to learn and unlearn caste history, stories and experiences. Taking into consideration these experiences, she acquires and implements traditional abilities from a range of caste-based occupations and begins reproducing materials within each form to express anti-caste resistance through both visual and tactile mediums.

Reclaim and Reimagine

In her visual work, she has undertaken a performative approach of storytelling and activism through the acknowledgment of her family lineage; farming. She proceeds to narrate the push-pull relationship with the presence of caste-oppressed and caste-privileged materials, for instance through the reference to block printing on fabrics and traditional draping-styles. The clear contrast, as seen in her self-portraiture, embodies a strong stance on caste resistance and anti-casteism through powerful symbolism and semiotics.

Roots to Routes

Utilising the natural resource of clay, which is malleable and can be remoulded to create a new form, Patel has been implementing pottery as a transformative tool for healing from traumatic caste experiences. She sourced locally farmed clay and terracotta, in order to meticulously recreate ‘Lotas’, which is a vessel traditionally used to carry materials such as water or grain. She navigates a journey of healing and empowerment through the makings of the clay bodies, which is a means of confronting the separation enforced by the hierarchy.

“My cup runneth over” – Psalm 23:5

Stories of untouchables being forbidden from sharing a cup of water with members of a more privileged caste are recognised. When making the sculptures, Psalm 23:5 emerged as a voice for the concept. Thus, Patel reimagines the hand-moulded sculptures as a vessel that fills multiple bodies with joy, love and peace. She goes on to embed wheat into the clay pots, as an acknowledgement to her family history, along with lavender, which Patel grows herself as an extension of her family’s trade and is a symbol of healing and growth. Alongside having these pieces, she has a shattered a Lota sculpture that has red glazing to represent the blood split due to casteism. This in turn, permeates the weight of caste narratives from the past, whilst envisioning a future free from caste- based oppression.