Alethea, what is your name?

25th October 2013

For her Action at Home project, Alethea wanted to showcase her creative skills in her first solo exhibition as an artist. Alethea, what is your name? opened at a gallery space in a school in Totnes, Devon.

The week-long exhibition explored the intricacies between the Kannada and English language and aimed to address Millennium Development Goal 8: Advocating Global Partnerships. "I consider this MDG to be vital but it seems to be often overlooked. Partnerships can only exist if common ground is identified and an understanding of the differences are accepted universally." 

Part of the art exhibition included a plinth of digitally printed postcards bearing photographs that Alethea took in India.  The aim was for visitors to the exhibition to take the postcards away and send to the people of Kalahatti, the village where she was based for her ICS placement. The photographs that she took in India were of pre-photographed images which were taken as part of a collaborative sculpture project which formed Alethea's fundraising, pre-departure.

"I created the sculptures in the environment I was living in at the time and photographed the results. I did not want to waste resources by sending either the sculpture or a physical copy of the photograph in the post. A virtual one seemed sufficient in this instance." 

One of twenty two official languages in India, Kannada has 38 million native speakers compared to English which has 380 million. For Indians in school, English is still a large part of the curriculum. To talk to fellow Indians who do not share their native language, Indians communicate in English. The English language is engrained in Indian culture, though the English that they speak is sometimes incomprehensible to English speakers. 

"The exhibition could be seen as an arbitrary selection of objects if the viewer does not understand the tenuous connection between the languages, but there is method to the madness. When it is understood that people in Karnataka speak is Kannada – which is pronounced in the same way as the north American country – then the viewer can understand why the Canadian flag is presented twisted." 

Litter bins are almost non-existent in India, when an item is considered rubbish and is no longer needed, it is dropped on the ground. During this exhibition, Alethea permitted visitors to drop their flyer when they had finished with it. "This is an action that is normal for people living in India, can feel unfamiliar for a person who has grown up in the UK." 

Alethea has documented the process on her blog: http://in-de-air.tumblr.com/ 

Have you been putting your creativity towards positive social action? Tell us more by emailing alumni@raleighinternational.org 

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