Sonnet to a Mango Leaf (2019), Large-Scale Installation
From being a shrine-based installation made of entirely synthetic material Sonnet To A Mango Leaf is commenting upon diaspora aesthetics, as well examining how heritage and nationhood are differentiated culturally. With connecting migration patterns between India, Canada, and Hawai’i this work is a pūjā honouring the mango and it’s relation as a symbol in diasporic journey. The Mango is an important symbol for the many nations within the Indian subcontinent. Coming from partial lineage from the Gujarati diaspora, I grew up mainly in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Despite being in the extreme minority, I was constantly surrounded by plants originating from the Indian Subcontinent especially the mango tree. From my own family’s permanent settlement in the Golden Horseshoe in Ontario, I realized that the mango was an important cultural symbol for both food and in Hindu ritual offerings. Due to climate, this was utilized by my family through mass produced mangoes that were seasonal and canned food. From my own relocation to Toronto, I realized that the mango was as well an important cultural symbol in my own identity in way that tied my home region to my heritage. Even though not having a deep connection to India as a land the only one being that it is the land of my family, the connection of being around similar nature in my home alongside my South Asian diasporic heritage began to cultivate an importance to the mango that is both singularly locational specific and intergenerational. This shrine is a visual ode to my lineages and my own diasporic routes by recreating a typical Western suburban Hindu worship room, instead of focusing upon a deity (thought still present in the work) it is honouring it is honouring a personal relationship with the mango. Having the shrine being fully of synthetic material is a commentary of how recreating cultural traditions in different climates has become a method of decorative consumption. Using both the languages of Hindi and Gujarati and intertwining South Asian customs with warped images from Hawai’i this installation creates a third space where diasporic location and heritage can be both cultural legitimately.
Documentation by Theodore Soliman.