Sheba Chhachhi


The Water Diviner offers us a visceral experience of water as part of our symbolic, cultural, psychic life. Evoking pleasure, loss, and rejuvenation, the video transforms the elephant, symbol of wisdom, power and fertility in Asia, into a figure emblematic of cultural memory, of forms of knowledge and ways of being in relation to the environment.

For most of us, residents of rapidly changing metropolitan urban space, our relationship to this primary element of our own bodies and the body of the earth has become instrumentalised. We relate to water as anxious consumers, faced with scarcity and contamination. Water has become a commodity.

On the other hand, we have a rich, abundant, active symbology of water within the multiple cultures that we inhabit. Ideas about the sacredness of water, its life giving, purifying, transformatory and magical qualities are woven into local mythologies.

The work evokes the mythopoeic as a repository of eco-philosophy. It reminds us of the need to dowse for a submerged metaphysics from which the material acts of enlightened use and conservation can arise.

The video is part of a large multimedia installation with the same title.


b. 1958, Harar, Ethiopia

Lives and works in New Delhi, India. She studied at the Delhi University & Visual Communications Faculty, National Institute of Design, India. Sheba Chhachhi brings the contemplative into the political, transforming contemporary concerns into lens-based works of art. She creates site-specific public art as well as independent works through which she investigates questions of gender, ecology and violence with a particular emphasis on drawing upon the mythic to understand the social. Among recent solo exhibitions: Evoking the pause, Dr.BhauDajiLad Museum, Mumbai (2011) • Luminarium, Volte Gallery Mumbai (2011). Among recent group exhibitions: The Water Diviner in Difficult Loves, Kiran Nadar Museum, Saket, New Delhi (2013) • Record/Resist, photo video installation in Roundtable, 9th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2012) • Bhogi/Rogi(Consumption/ Disease in India!Side by Side, touring exhibition, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Brazil (2012) • Winged Pilgrims: A Chronicle from Asia in Chimera, The Collectors Show, Singapore Art Museum (2012) • Black Waters Will Burn, Yamuna-Elbe, Public Art Project, Delhi & Hamburg, Germany (2011) • Ganga’s Daughters in Samtidigt (Concurrence), Kulturhuset, Stockholm & City Art Museum, Helsinki (2011) • Initiation Chronicle in Where Three Dreams Cross, Whitechapel Gallery, London and FotoMuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2010) • Against Exclusion, 3rd Moscow Biennial, Russia (2009).