Nikhila Nanduri’s contribution reminded me of Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things“.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
What more needs to be said? Enjoy.
— Anil Menon
The Bombay Literary Magazine
Artist's Note: The Perfect Tree
In the evolution of the conversation about climate change, ‘climate despair’ and ‘climate anxiety’ are fairly recent developments, though they were predicted to be a certainty almost a decade ago. In the idea of climate anxiety there are two diametrically opposite ideas. It alludes to something deeply internal and external at the same time.
At this overlap I was able to locate a sense of disorientation that I had been experiencing for a while. From within the microcosm of my life and the admittedly small scale at which it plays out, it is hard to find my place in the larger narrative of climate change – an event that is constantly evolving on a frighteningly large scale. After a period of engagement with the conversation about climate change, my impulse was to cut off from the news and -in the quiet that ensued- seek something within.
The result is this silent experiential narrative. And I know the words “experiential narrative” can sound very vague so I want to try to explain what I mean by that, and the ways in which it manifests in the graphic narrative. I found that the quiet reverie I experienced when I spent time in nature was completely at odds with how I felt in my engagement with the news about climate change. I wanted to focus on that experience of being in a reverie amidst nature. And from there, slowly form a lens through which I could access news and the voices of people around me. I found that it is easy to forget the profound experience of our innate connection to nature in the cacophony of climate news.
I wanted to make a defiant, quiet case for one’s personal interaction with nature and the experience that that evokes. So I set about trying to identify and re-create the experience of a quiet reverie in nature. To try to capture aspects of an experience that many may have implicitly felt when amidst nature. It is an attempt to break down and visually articulate that inexplicable and primal feeling of one’s private connection with nature.
Nikhila is an artist and the creator of the graphic narratives Hills and Stones (Yoda Press 2016) and In the Soil, a Tree (Scroll.in 2020). She authored the paper Graphic narratives from the hills: a wood-carving tradition in Uttarakhand, India (OHS Journal, UK, 2018).
Hills and Stones is a bi-lingual graphic narrative about an oral history interview with Gangaramji who was one of the last surviving Likhai craftsmen in Uttarakhand. The comic uses Likhai motifs to reflect on Gangaramji’s account of his life as well as the process of documenting oral narratives. In the Soil, a Tree is a silent, meditative graphic narrative about a tree and the small beings that seek refuge in its shade. It was made as an antidote to news fatigue at the peak of the Covid19 pandemic.
Nikhila’s storytelling emphasizes quiet moments and seeks to explore inner worlds. Her work deals with people-centric stories that are big on feelings, aphorisms and insights as they form a layered view of the world around her. She has over five years of experience working as an artist and graphic-designer.