Extraction II: Roads and Threads
I am a researcher working in Bhod and exile Tibet, Ladakh, Gadderan, most recently Monyul, in Eastern Himalayas. Bearing the high potential for hydroelectric power, timber, mine, and carbon sequestration, this region has gone through extractivist operations under different administrations for nationalistic and geopolitical interests. I work on sensitive issues and sometimes in sensitive areas, with people easily being hurt from the distribution of information. Reflecting the histories, moving myself from responding to emergencies, I chose to look at the carrier and often the inducer of extractivism. The mechanism that sustains unfair profiting activities relies on roads, and the roads also connects dreams emerged along the roads for better human lives, at the expenses of exploiting nature.
My work on Extraction II: Roads and Threads tries to cool the discussion about extractivism from the powerful poignant and indignant tone, through feeling the connection of materials and ideas, to tune out words new for the expression. Especially in the time of pandemic, when we are bombarded by news about death, distress, and sorrows, almost every day. The mittens, neck-doughnut and place mat, made by highway road workers from the Eastern Himalayas, uses the imaginable warmth to carry the weight of extracting and marketing homeland, and the weathered environment. Building the dialogue with the notion of extractivism as the short-sighted model that causes polarized inequality, I ask two bigger and harder question through the art work: what is the reasonable timeline for planning to use natural resources in the Himalayas, and what scale can be justified?
Art-activism-research approach to me is to remove the role-play constraints and blur the stance when we engage, focusing on the message to deliver and the way of delivering. The mixture of three, is taking the freedom from art, the performative positivity from activism, and the disciplinary rigorist from research. I use this approach to showcase a facade of a problem true to my perspective. Besides hoping to draw more in-time intervention and relevant care to the addressed others, I think this approach is a challenge for me in terms of foregrounding myself too to the public.
continue to view Extration II: Roads and Threads
Roads: The Logistic Carrier of Extractions
What do you think when you see the word “extraction”? On my mind images emerged about mining, an exploitative labour regime, damages in the environment and culture that cannot be reversed.
Extraction cannot be possible when there is no logistic carrier. Roads, in the broader sense, contain the artificial channels that flow and move out the extraction and send them to the buyers. People and goods move after the roads are made, they transfer diseases, profits, ideas, as well as creating systems, capitals, dreams. Sometimes it deepens the extraction, sometimes it brings hope for change.
Around 45 years ago an indigenous girl was forced to give up formal education by her mother, to work at the highway construction site to earn cash and build ways to connect their village to the goods from outside. She kept a small amount of her salary and discovered the woollen thread imported from an unknown place. When coal, hydropower and timber being exported through the highway she participated to build, she founded her small knitting business. She kept doing this business because of joy, the colourful creations decorated her lifeworld and gave her mobility to wander travel beyond her village. From a daughter, a worker to a tourist, a wife, a mother, she played roles in different situations, continue working for the highway construction.
Khandrup‘s story is not a single case. Actually the state governance and the power apparatus structured her story. When I met the girl in her story, she was nearly sixty years old. When we talked about extractions, she showed and gifted me the items she knitted. In her enthusiasm to share and her high spirit to meet another two woman-travelers, we experienced the controversy with the weight of history.
Roads are like rivers in the rainy season. The constant maintenance of road reinstates the state governance over the borderland. Yet in these fabrics that construct the changing landscape, Khandrup and her threads tell a story positive to her, of how the extraction and roads changed her life and the view she has about herself.
Audio Recording: How did Khandrup decide the price of her knitting pieces?
You could hear the voices of three people, the interviewer, the translator, the producer, and maybe the emotions, the smell of homemade alcohol in the air, under a temperate tin roof, when the three sat on the ground on old wool blankets. You might be able to tell as well, the language that Khandrup uses, is a mixture of her traditional language, Hindi and Assamese, which reflects the interactions she had since the road brought in the non-tribal.