Ashok Kallooa takes us on a Journey through Time

Arts & Culture

From the colonial days before independence to date, Ashok Kallooa takes visitors through a journey in time with ‘Eskuli: Laswer e Kreasion’.

‘Eskuli: Laswer e Kreasion’. Photo –

Ashok Kallooa is a sculptor, painter and a photographer. He is an artist with a remarkable record of accomplishments. He has held solo exhibitions at l’Alliance Française at Bell Village, Beau Séjour and Forbach. He had also exhibited his bronze sculptures and installations at the Jahangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, l’Alliance Française in New Delhi and his photographs in Seoul and Barcelona. The artist has won several awards and prizes at national and international levels.

‘Eskuli’ is a series of three exhibitions. ‘Eskuli: Laswer e Kreasion’ is the first exhibition and is organised in the context of the commemoration of the arrival of the first indentured labourers in Mauritius at the Aapravasi Ghat, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. Ashok intends to organise the second exhibition in the context of the commemoration of the abolition of slavery next February and finally in May 2021 to mark Labour Day.

‘Eskuli’, arouses the curiosity of many visitors but Ashok explains that he has deliberately linked two words: slave (esclave) and coolie (kuli) to create the new term. He ‘does not reject the different identities of slaves and coolies but he asserts that it is high time take a different lens to view their joint contribution to the socioeconomic development of our country’. Instead of an ‘ongoing commemoration, Ashok believes that we must celebrate the hard work and achievements of the descents of slaves and coolies in weaving the strong fabric of the Mauritian ‘quadricolore’.

As we go up the historical steps of the Aapravasi Ghat, we can see the first installation: an ox cartwheel and a bicycle, motorcycle as well as a car wheel swinging from the branches of a tree. Ashok integrates to this installation three sepia photographs of an old man, Mr Karriman, who was among the rare artisans to make cartwheels during the 1970s at Rivière du Rempart. The evolution of our transport system is obvious and the wind that moves the other wheels over our heads creates the dynamism of a fast moving society.

Another installation shows different pieces of wood hanging from the branches of another tree; one is white, the others are yellow, brown and black respectively. Finally, all pieces are linked to a common circular tin painted in red, blue, yellow and green. Ashok states explains: ‘There is no problem in feeling the link with the countries of our ancestors but it is a natural law that umbilical cords detach after birth and should be tied and cut. This process is important in the making of independent and unique individuals. It is important to value our roots but it vital to allow new buddings, flowers and cross-fertilisation. This is essential in the building and the consolidating our nation arc-en-ciel ’.

The monochrome pictures of Ashok Kallooa integrate very well with the colour of the black stones, lime and sand joints of the walls of the Aapravasi Ghat. Apart from mangoes, the mango tree in the middle of the Ghat seems to bear a different type of fruit. Photographs of vegetables and fruits sellers of the Port Louis market can be seen swinging and turning with the wind.

As you move from one room to the other, you feel carried in a journey through time. The rooms used during colonial days such as horse stable, cart-room, kitchen, surgery and ward of the Aapravasi Ghat have been used by Ashok Kallooa to display photographs of cow-keepers, Chinese shopkeepers, traditional cuisines and families as well as sugar camps respectively. On the wall in the open space, you can contemplate large size monochrome photographs of women and men at work. Aly Liaquat Soobraty, traditional baker; Clarel Jean Batiste, rattaner; Jayranee Buleeram, weaver; Kheen Pyng Lipiang Nam, chef, and many others who are sweating to create (Laswer e Kreasion) the products of their labour.

Ashok Kallooa’s ‘Eskuli: Laswer e Kreasion’ is a wonderful and worthwhile journey in time.

* Published in print edition on 20 November 2020

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