The Desert Land

Maya Kumari


The Thar Desert, situated in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan, becomes a space for spatial inquiry, or rather an enquiry into what is spatial for this context.

The project explores how colonial history is encountered in the desert villages, the collective narrative of the people, and the construction of history and place. It questions the colonial ethnographical gaze and the act of shaping the desert environment. As a native of a desert village, I employ a personal narrative alongside archival research to intertwine stories of colonial recording practices such as census records, ethnographic photography, and map-making, all of which played a role in establishing unequal hierarchical structures within the villages for the land occupation between the 1880s and 1940s. Recording the documentation becomes a tool to hold friction between the ground reality of the desert and the colonial project. Utilising self-recording as a method, I confront my subject position through the use of jewellery as a symbolic tool hoping to merge identity and physical location into one being.

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