Where are you going?
By Beverly Andrews
As the Syrian war continues into its fifth year with little prospect of a resolution and with political demigods throughout Europe and America now appearing on our political landscape, the question “Where are You Going?” would appear to be an apt one. It is also though the title of a new photographic exhibition by photographer, theatre director and actor Ishwar Maharaj. This exhibition is a startlingly beautiful portrait of Maharaj's own physical and spiritual journey through six different countries including Poland, India, England, France, Italy and Finland. In the tiny, delightful new North London cafe/art gallery Sweet N Savoury located in London's multiracial community of Kilburn, Maharaj talks about the inspiration behind this beautiful exhibition.
“The idea for these photos came primarily from me thinking about death, wondering what happens after we leave this earth. Then somehow this took on a deeper resonance when considering our path in life. Are all of us really on paths that will ultimately lead us to happiness and if not do we challenge ourselves to change? But this question also has a greater resonance, something which was illustrated to me after the Brexit vote this summer, when the country was in such turmoil, something to a certain extent we are still emerging from today. I feel this isn't just an individual question but a universal one, which can be posed even to countries: where exactly are we going collectively?”
Ishwar goes on to say, “When I say, 'Where Are We Going collectively?' as a society this applies as much to what's happening in America with the rise of Donald Trump as it does to Syria, a country which at times feels as if it's on the brink of total destruction. Where exactly are we going? Are we just destined for total annihilation? Are we programmed for destruction as a species? It's a theme I keep coming back to in all my work, be it the plays I write or my photography, it's a question I feel almost compelled to continuously ask.”
The photographs are all shot in a shimmering black and white and include beautiful mountain top landscapes, as well as startling portraits of India, onto the deserted tracks of an ancient railway which could almost be anywhere in the world. All the photos taken together reflect not just a physical journey but an internal one.
Some of the most striking ones are those taken on Maharaj's recent trip to India after his father's death. “The title I guess also applies to my trip to India since I had no idea of what to expect when we travelled there. Although I am half Indian and have grown up very much part of Indian culture, I had in fact never actually been to the country . And up until the point at which I went, India had never been on my radar. But all this changed once I was there. I found a country which I immediately connected to and although I had never been there before I felt I already knew it. It was so beautiful on so many different levels and it felt as if my having to go was a final present from my father, whose wish was to have his ashes taken back to be scattered in the Ganges, this was the catalyst for me and my brother to organise the trip there, a trip which had such a profound effect on my life. Somehow I feel my father knew that simply by being there I would connect to this extraordinary country.”
Despite being a self confessed pessimist, the exhibition perhaps surprisingly concludes with images of hope the breathtaking photos of mountain top landscapes shrouded by shimmering clouds. Ishwar goes on to state “I do have hope I guess despite myself, when I look at the world today, I just feel that there is perhaps enough sense inside of all of us to swing the other way. Of course if we are not careful we can tip the balance into darkness but I feel that there is something innate inside all of us which will at the last possible moment turn toward the light. And perhaps the final photograph in the exhibit maybe reflects this. Our hopefully innate ability to at the last moment turn away from darkness.”
A sentiment Sweet N Savoury's cafe owner Jamshid Zarkesh supports, “When I opened this cafe this summer I wanted it to be that kind of place, a place of light in what can be a dark landscape. A place where people can come, relax and enjoy great art produced by great artists from all over the world. A centre where people of all faiths could come, talk and mingle happily. That is my wish, to create this at such a difficult time around the world.” At a time of conflict a tiny oasis of peace.FΩRMIdea London, 28th September 2016.
The exhibition “Where are we Going” will continue for the next few months at the Sweet N Savoury cafe, at 237 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JN and Ishwar Maharaj will also be directing a forthcoming new production of Virginia Woolf's Orlando for Teatteri Vertigo, in Finland due to premier the beginning of 2017.