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The HAT Project 2006/07 is supporting 20 exchange fellowships between England, South Asia and Australia

Nick Barberton

Residency at JamFactory

The walls were covered with the blood.....

Posted by Nick Barbeton on 19th April 2007

Hi, I left Adelaide on the early bus for the airport. Flew to Sydney, Darwin and Mumbai. Booked into the worst hotel in the world. The walls were covered with the blood stained remains of 50 mosquitoes. There was no way to get rid of the hungry ones so I erected my net, ignored the cold shower in the filthy bathroom and crept into bed where I was kept awake by Mosquitoes, slapping on my neighbours walls, the traffic and dog fights. They woke me at 4.20 instead of the requested 5 and the taxi dropped me at the domestic airport. India Air would not accept my receipt so I had to buy another ticket. The plane left at 8 instead of 7 and the driver waiting for me in Delhi was waiting for 3 hours. A good start to India.

Sansktiti was a haven of peace in a suburb of Delhi. A gated enclosure. Syann and Gina were there. Their hotel in Delhi was also the worst in the world. All these people that I knew or almost knew appeared and an intensive conference started. It soon became apparent that there were two types of Craftsmen. First world craftsmen who were searching their souls to find new ways to express themselves through their work and third world craftsmen who were trying to find new markets for their work. Although I was in the first category, my heart was in the second camp. At discussion time I moved into brown skin camp. In between conference we went to a potters village where I found that showing subjects the screen of my camera was a sensational hit and I got dragged through houses to photograph parents, children, potters working etc. We went to a craft market. A cleaned up paid entrance tourist version of the frantic street markets we had experienced elsewhere and a craft museum with makers from the provinces selling their wares. Most of the travelling was done with several taxis and us whizzing down the manic overcrowded streets of Delhi. We had a magnificent Dance performance of a classical dance one evening. All of a sudden the conference was over and these bunch of strangers were our friends and we were exchanging email addresses.

The next morning we went to the airport to fly to Daramsala so we could walk in the Himalayas and visit Buddhist temples. We arrived in Srinagar in Kashmir and were ushered through the guards and officials in their sandbagged offices by the cousin of the travel agent. We felt a bit like John Simpson. They have to take desperate measures to get the tourists upon which they depend, back into their area. We were taken through the city to a houseboat on a lake. No mosquitoes they promised us, only midges. They were right. Ramiz looked after us diligently, they took us to the market and the mosques. They cooked for us and left piles of fruit in the room. The view from the Houseboat of the glassy lake was exquisite. We were taken up trekking above the snow line along the still closed road to Leh. We got tired easily at that altitude. That evening we were ‘treated’ to a traditional Kashmiri feast. Boss man Rafiq organised a business friend and his family to visit and had chef cook up a feast. Six types of goat and rice. The visitor and especially his eldest daughter a Dentistry student were interesting. The younger children lacked the fluency in English. We were not up to eating lots of goat. Fortunately no alcohol was involved so the evening did not drag on too long. We were very tired after the trek in the mountains. The next day was a laid back affair. We were taken out on the lake in a boat by Shakeel who had taken us up the mountain the day before. We negotiated with vendors and photographed scenery and eagles. The final morning had nothing planned. It had warmed up and we sat on the roof after packing until the final manic rush through the streets of Srinagar dealing with a cash point that was running out of money and the airport security, before flying back to Delhi through the magnificent Himalayas.

The hotel in Delhi was reasonable even though we were in the cellar. I got up early to fly to Mumbai Syann and Gina could get up later. From Mumbai I was upgraded to Club class. I could get used to this, drinking a glass of Champagne while the peasants found their seats and stacked their luggage. Some good food, better wine (from Barossa Valley) and a film and good radio and the 9 hours were over and I was breathing the cool soft air of England again.


Nick Barberton presents his artist's talk during cHAT week at Sanskriti, Delhi, India. March 2007 (note: the beginning of this video is missing due to a recording error)

Click on image to open QuickTime movie