Interview – Shivanjani Lal

Shivanjani Lal is a twice removed Fijian Indian Australian Artist and Curator. Her history is shaped by the Kala Pani [Black Waters]. She is from the indentured labor diaspora of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. She works across mediums to explore her dislocation that seeks to account for memory, erasure, healing, and the archive.


At what moment did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist or work in the arts?
I think I have always wanted to be an artist, but I never felt like I had the skills to make art. I guess it really started when I started taking photographs. I took a SLR beginner photography class. That felt like a good place to begin. As it was something I could access, a camera, and also it felt real which painting and sculpture didn’t. But I didn’t really start pursuing or thinking of art until I was in my mid 20’s and now 10 years later I think of my arts practice as work and that there are multiple avenues of how this generates art.
How has your practice evolved over the years and what has been a constant source of inspiration for you?
I guess my practice has evolved in its idea of what art is and how I make it. I am quite interested in the idea of agility and what this looks like to me right now consists of select images from my families archive, brown paper, red thread and my camera. Something which centers me; is my relationship with the women in family, particularly my grandmothers and the lives they lead and how this is a lens to review history and unmake the silences of histories.
Do you think the residency at WAA has benefited or helped your practice? If so how?
Absolutely, I was able to begin thinking more materially about my practice, to have the space and time explore brown paper and red thread in a way that makes sense to me know after living in and out of India for the last year. Also time it write and just sit with materials to listen to them and see what can happen. But also to allow others into this space and work and share this space with people who you want to support.
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What is the essence of your art? 
I think the essence of my practice is generosity. What does this work mean to me, but what does this mean also to my community and how it’s not just about outcomes such as an artwork but rather how does my work also build a community I want to see visible in the arts.
What is it that you are working on currently and what projects are in the pipeline?
I have 2 solo exhibitions coming up, one in New Zealand at a gallery called Meanwhile in Wellington and Airspace in Sydney, As well as a group show in Sydney in a new space in called Cement Fondu. Right now I am working towards an outcome for my HH Artspaces Open on the 26th of April.
Where do you feel your strength lies in as an artist?
Patience, generosity, always being open and faking it even when I feel like I don’t deserve it.
What would be your dream project? 
Two dream projects would be to make a 9 channel video that I have been dreaming of since I moved to India 18 months ago. Also to have a group exhibition with the other Fijian Indian artists both in India, Fiji and Australia.

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