Of Myths and Legends

Artist Rithika Merchant looks at myths from around the world and discovers a deeper connection

Written by AMRUTA LAKHE | Published: October 3, 2013 2:57:29 am

Once,when artist Rithika Merchant was reading about the Aztec culture,she came across a story that spoke of the Deadly Mother — a goddess who is a destroyer of evil. She immediately drew references to Kaali,the Hindu goddess and annihilator of evil forces. The similarity in the conception and visual representation of the two myths surprised her. The more she read,the more she discovered myths that seemed to recur across cultures.

After poring over books about myths,legends and folklore of Roman,Hindu,Norse,Greek and African origins,she had gathered a lot of material on the subject. Two years ago,Merchant — who had her first solo showing in Mumbai in 2011 — started to channel this information into her next exhibition,titled “Mythography”. Her drawings and sketches,therefore,explore the common thread in myths and legends across different cultures. The works are on display at Gallery Art and Soul,Worli,starting October 4.

Within this theme,the artist’s works are divided into two series. In the first,titled after the exhibition,Merchant has strung together myths from all over the world. “Some myths are universal. For instance,the flood myth,which talks of a great flood sent by the gods to destroy an entire civilization. It can be seen in the story of Noah’s Ark or Vishnu’s matsya avatar,” she says of Matsya. The work Creation From Nothing/Within represents an African legend where a white giant created the nine creatures,one from each family of animals,through which all others were born.

The second series of her exhibition,‘My Monomyth’,came together after Merchant read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. “The book postulates that a hero who sets out on a journey encounters 17 phases right from the initiation of the adventure,the obstacles he encounters along the way,the self-discovery and his eventual return,” says Merchant. ‘My Monomyth’ is her semi-autobiographical version of the same theory,with a slight twist. “The protagonists in Campbell’s stories are male. So I decided that the central character of my series would be a woman,” she says.

Merchant believes that all myths are connected because the human race as a whole experiences similar situations. “Even though people live thousands of miles away from each other,their reactions to emotions,such as fear,hope,happiness,are the same. It is a fascinating study of this connection holding us all together,” she says.

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