VEDIC RESISTANCE | YAAZHIN PILLAY

VEDIC RESISTANCE

In the process of sculpting Vedic Resistance, I was able to meditate on the ideas of heritage and activism in a transformative way. I created the piece to try and foster a similar process within those who view it and to change the way the global North views those who are not of the dominant colonial culture. The piece stems from personal experiences with racial and cultural bigotry and led to an important understanding of how religion and culture inform the resistance of colonised peoples.

I began to think about this piece when I was taken back to a moment in my childhood in South Africa. At the time, I was attending an ex-model C school (ex-white only government school) that still included much Christian doctrine in the classroom. Uncomfortable with this, my parents attempted to address the issue with the school only to have the principle tell them that, “you people should be thankful because we saved you.” This statement represented not only a problematic approach to theology but also how Christianity and racist beliefs served as a tool of the coloniser and oppressor in South Africa. It represented the saviour and superiority complex of those who ruled and reflected attitudes of colonial powers around the world. In considering the heritage and history of my people in South Africa under such a system, I realised that their resistance was not simply marked by an all-out rejection of Western ideals and power but rather an adamant retention of their own culture and religion. The knowledge and way of life that carried through each generation, regardless of their time and specific struggles, marked the differences in our world and that of the coloniser.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is no god dictating ideology and instruction, but rather, lessons to be learnt and lived by to achieve a good life. The images of our deities are collections of symbols and knowledge for us to learn from, a concept that was bastardised and distorted by the West, which in turn led to misunderstandings that continue to this day. To, therefore, live closer to one’s own indigeneity within post-colonial society, means to live with difficulty. I wanted to create a piece that recognized this form of resistance and that the way we fight and claim our sovereignty is by staying true to our culture. Our culture and religion are marked by restraint and control of oneself and one’s mind.

In creating the sculpture, I wanted to focus on a piece that combined all the subtleties of this experience. I chose to work off the image of Lord Shiva, as I was born a Shaivite, and Shiva represents the destroyer. So much of this knowledge revolved around the destruction of ego and evil, which will, in turn, give way for creation and birth. I wanted to communicate to many peoples and audiences as my own people’s struggle was never a solitary one. Our freedom was attributed not only to the heroes within our own country but the efforts of those around the world, be it through embargoes or all-out military assistance. I, therefore, wanted to keep in mind that while making the piece, it will need to have a level of meaning that can also be interpreted by other cultures. I researched the specific meanings and lessons behind each symbol within his image and decided to replace specific instances with contemporary symbols of resistance from my own heritage. I used: the image of starving Buddha in place of Shiva’s body, the umKhonto we Sizwe (militant body of the African National Congress) beret sits in place of Shiva’s dreadlocks and where the River Genga flows from his head, his trident is replaced by the Zulu spear which stands as a symbol of the resistance in South Africa and a powerful weapon that was used to defend SA from invaders, a dot rests on his forehead to carry through the image of the third eye and an important symbol of enlightened thought. I paid much attention to his posture as I needed to communicate a deep sense of tranquility whilst making the figure alert. This is the aim of meditation but also a constant in the lives of those who fear their government.

The sculpture is made out of clay and sits at 12” high and 12” wide. It was created to be molded and cast in cement. The original piece will stand on its own and was textured with varnish, soot, and adhesives. The figure will always sit on a narrow white plinth that keeps the head at eye-level allowing the viewer to interact with the piece in the manner that Hindu and Buddhist iconography is often displayed. The body was made to be in a dimly lit space with a single strong light source directed at it slightly off-center. The spear is made of wood and twine.

Moving forward, I hope that my work encourages those who have survived the onslaught of colonial violence and control to continue to find their way back to their motherlands and the ways of their peoples, and in doing so, to find the strength, resolve, and knowledge that they need to gain their sovereignty.

SUPPORTING WORKS

Past works speaking to the commodification of coloured bodies, the removal of culture, and the frustrations of life within colonial regimes.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Yaazhin Pillay is a South African born, multi-medium artist, based in BC, Canada. He is interested in decolonial action and the dismantling of apartheid structures. His work focuses on heritage, resistance, and socio-political issues.


The Town Where I Am Missing | Qianyu Zhou

The Town Where I Am Missing (2020) , Pigment and Ink on wood panel, 40” x 38”

Missing: absent, not found, or lost.

This large scale illustration is created based on the impression of the artist’s travel experience. A lot of details in the drawing are inspired by the photos that were taken in different cities and counties.
It was originally an interaction piece. Viewers would be invited to find a few objects with instructions in this made-up town.

Close-ups