An initiative by LEAF and Aniket Bhagwat, ‘Tracing Narratives’ is a travelling exhibition that unearths the aesthetics of landscape design in India and discusses the idea of the garden to core concerns and discourse.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous.” – Aristotle
It is remarkable that the history of landscape design coincides with the history of gardens to such an extent. Our scriptures, classics and folk lore nonetheless conceptualize paradise not as a mansion or a palace but a garden. The garden remains the most coveted, most aspired for place. Moreover, gardens are also referred to as ‘lungs of the city’.
Gardens and landscaped areas enhance the quality of life by creating spaces that serve to recreate, relax and rejuvenate. These are specifically such open spaces far removed from the urban areas and their dense environment. In this regard, landscape architects design, install and maintain gardens and landscaped spaces.
‘Tracing Narratives’ is an initiative by LEAF (Landscape Environment Advancement Foundation), and put together by Aniket Bhagwat and his team. A one of its kind exhibition, it explores Mughal gardens, Hindu palaces, fort and city gardens, the importance of landscaping and plant life, as well as narratives of individual landscape architects.
The exhibition “Tracing Narratives – Indian Landscape Design” and the monograph are categorized into nine loosely structured sections. The underlying vision is to entice the viewer and reader to explore these sections and outside the virtual fence established with this effort. Indian Landscape Design forms a grand narrative in itself and will take years to surmount. The exhibition attempts to create a lens through which practitioners may evaluate the world of landscape design and its implications.
Another facet is to generalize the idea of the garden to core concerns and discourse. The meaning or rather the many meanings of a garden are often forgotten, and the quest for these meanings will lead one to find the essence of the profession from where many forays not just in the world of design can be launched.
The Mughal gardens could not be the only legacy of Indian gardens. After a cursory search, the team of LEAF was convinced by the thought that they had to define what a garden was in the Indian context. They came up to define garden thus: “A garden was a space that had a circumscribed territory, its limits notional or clearly marked, but at all times discernible and finite; the very marking of this territory could happen by an act of active making or even claiming one already marked and within this would exist a certain prescribed or evolved ritual that allowed the many ideas of nature to be experienced in an articulated manner”.
This definition allowed many spaces to be revealed as its subsets and further led to a lecture called Million Gardens alluding to the fact that there were literally an infinite number of gardens waiting to be found and celebrated. These included the water structures that embank the rivers and tanks in the country like Abhaneri in Rajasthan. In the dry deserts of Rajasthan, it is not only a place where travellers could rest, but also places to mediate, hold social events and above bathe in the splendour.
The events of ‘Tracing Narratives’ took place in Delhi from 25th March to 24th April 2017 at India Habitat Centre. The Mumbai event, which took place from 12th May to 27th May 2017 at Chemould Prescott Road, had remarkable speakers including the eminent landscape architect Aniket Bhagwat, Leander D’souza from ART Oxygen, contemporary Indian artist Jitish Kallat and the discussion moderated by journalist and writer Sidharth Bhatia. The Mumbai launch and event took place in partnership with Spade magazine. SPADE is a not for profit organisation, a platform that deliberates design.
On 12th May, Mumbai audience were enlightened with a conversation between Rahul Mehrotra and Riyaz Tayyibji on ‘Cities and Forests’ that focused on understanding landscape, ecology and urbanity. On 18th May, there was another information packed conversation on ‘Landscape, Art and People’ between Aniket Bhagwat, Jitish Kallat, Leandre D’Souza and Sidharth Bhatia.
The exhibition travels to fifteen locations in India beginning in December 2016, covering Pune, Surat, Kolhapur, New Delhi and Mumbai. You can head to one of the cities where the exhibition is set to travel in the upcoming days – Hyderabad, Chennai, Auroville, Pondicherry, Cochin, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Baroda to witness this amazing exhibition.