In the beginning, there was water.

Deka, the Series

Deka, 10, in Greek, is a series of 10 paintings I have embarked upon, to document, render or visualize the contribution of womankind to our life on earth. Through forgotten history, my series attempts to unearth and present to the viewer as well as claim the ecological, biological, cultural, economic and archaeological significance of women as a species. This entire series could be considered as a visual attempt at feminist anthropology. It is quite a broad topic as I have realized but it will be a rewarding task to paint this series as a tribute to these forgotten women who preserved entire cultures, almost single-handedly.

Dasavathara, in Hindu mythology catalogues the ten avatars of Vishnu, as a savior and nurturer of humankind. Chronologically, many equate these avatars to Darwin’s theory of evolution, from the beginnings of life from water, to amphibians and weapon bearers and agriculturalists to pastoralists to eventually to a fully formed functional human being. I plan to go down this path as mythology is a beautiful way to connect new thinking with an established common premise. Also, women have been the saviors of earth, but epistemology has often ignored the contribution of them, typically labelling them as the weaker, dependent sex.


Matsya Avatar of Vishnu
Matsya Avatar

Matsya– is the first Avatar of Vishnu, where he takes the shape of a fish to save the world from a deluge. Biblically similar to Noah’s ark, this first Avatar is typically equated with the genesis or the origin of life from the primordial waters. (All Images sourced from Wikipedia pages)

Ama Divers of Japan

My version of “Matsya” documents Ama pearl divers of Japan, who were women taught to dive early on in their childhoods, and developed physiological attributes conducive to deep sea diving without oxygen tanks. These women almost single-handedly drove the economy of Akoya pearls for quite a long while. The Pearls and the jewels of the sea is the offering of these brave hearts to this wonderful mankind.

Matsya – Painting Gallery

Matsya – About the Painting

The whole painting swirls around the theme of water. The painting aims to show the Amas diving to fetch life itself, from the hands of Tethys, the Greek goddess of waters, and Amma, the almost invisible Dogon Goddess who is the cosmic egg herself, breaking to reveal the spirals of stars and galaxies. The pisces constellation is represented by the two fishes in the spiral, and the pearls and abalones signifying the male and female, Pingala and Ida , the emergence of pearl on the right and the Yoni on left side of the painting.

These mythological figures help to describe the origins of life and its riches, being bestowed on humankind, for the grabbing of the divers, representing the pioneers of humankind. The duality of opposing male and female forces are represented by the opposing spirals on Tethys’s forehead and emerging from the loins of Amma. Tethys herself is shown with African features as life began there, with Amma shown androgynous. Opposing forces appear all through the painting.

The Spiral at the center of the painting is the spiral of time, that is tethered to the divers, and connects the humans with the divine. It serves as a symbol of spirituality, or a benevolent universal force that connects all life, human and divine. The inception of a pearl happens with the Ama reaching into an abalone to plant a grain of sand. This is so synonymous with the conception of life itself, with male planting a seed inside the female.

The turning whale and the Conch and the spiral serves as a tribute to Vishnu, with his lower half of a fish, along with his conch and chakra. The conch is specific to Japan, called Horagai, used by Buddhists for the sacred water-drawing festival, called as Omizutori.

Chakra is signified as universal consciousness while the conch sounds the arrival of life from the womb of Tethys. Incidentally, Lake Manasarovar, is considered to be the originator of all life, the primordial waters from the Tethys Sea, the original waterscape that surrounded Pangea, or the entire world in one continent. Later when the continents parted, it is believed that the remnant of Tethys sea got elevated along with the formation of the Himalayas, thus sealing the Tethys sea in the roof of the world.

The bamboo basket with two abalones is symbolic of Noah’s ark, that housed two lives of each species. The blue tinted pearls and the blue colour theme of the entire painting is an ode to Vishnu.

Overall, this painting is an embarking of a journey that connects patterns across mythologies, theories, civilizations, geographic locations and species, all rendered from a feminist perspective.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: