In an attempt to highlight some of Guyana’s emerging talent, particularly from our premier art institution the E.R. Burrowes School of Art, I decided to extend my platform so that the public could be better acquainted with future Guyanese art practitioners.This week’s feature highlights Darshani Kistama, a young artist whose works are predominantly textile designs and paintings.
Dominique Hunter: Tell me a little bit about who you are and how you got started.
Darshani Kistama: I’m a 21-year-old artist from Berbice. I liked drawing ever since I was little, ever since I knew about books and pencils. There wasn’t much art in Berbice. There wasn’t any [place] I could’ve gone to do anything. I didn’t know about Burrowes until one day my uncle was looking for art schools in town and then he found out about Burrowes. I had just finished writing CXC. I wrote art for CXC but I didn’t have an art teacher until I had to do the SBAs. Then someone came to the school to help us. When I finally found out about Burrowes, I enrolled there. At the time, I only knew about drawing and painting. I didn’t know about subjects like ceramics, sculpture, leather craft or anything like that. At first it was fatiguing because I was traveling from Berbice to Burrowes every day but after a while I got used to it. There were a lot of challenges. I was supposed to graduate last year but an easel fell on my head in Burrowes so I was hospitalized and had to stop school for a year. I finished off the semester this year and that’s how I’m able to graduate.
DH: How has it been readjusting to work after the accident?
DK: Now and then I would feel like I can’t overwork myself. When I do overwork myself I would get a lot of headaches. I did a lot of tests and one CT scan showed that I have a fractured skull. It’s nothing big but I find that when I overwork myself I would get these headaches. So I can’t overwork myself like I used to. It’s hard because I liked to push myself but now I can’t.
DH: How did you choose your major and minor?
DK: I didn’t exactly choose them. Before this current administrator, there was a different one who chose [these areas] for us. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They told us to work on all these subjects and whichever subjects we were weak in we should work on them more. That way eventually we would get to do what we wanted to do. But we didn’t. In the end, it changed and they chose textile design and painting for me. I really wanted to do ceramics and painting. But eventually I got to like textiles so I don’t regret doing it. I enjoyed it and I had a wonderful textile design teacher.
DH: Tell me about your major task for this exhibition.
DK: I was inspired to follow in the steps in the great Nihâl Chand (chief painter at the court of Kishangarh in the 18th century) using the Rajput style of painting to create my major task, since it is best known for depicting the life of Lord Krishna. This style of painting requires great attention to detail and colour variations (particularly colours such as gold, bright yellows, greens etc.) and sometimes took days to complete. I was working on this painting for about three months. This was an assignment where we were asked to choose a scripture from a religious text and produce a painting.I decided to incorporate textiles in the painting by including a soft toy of Radha and Krishna depicting my theme “A divine love.” Though each loves the other deeply, their love is complicated. They barely spend any actual time with each other – maybe a fleeting moment here or a few wee hours of the morning there. Their love is never consummated by the fires of marriage. It always remains in this early romantic stage, where each is perpetually consumed by the other, in thought, word and action. Their relationship had its challenges. Despite their love, they both eventually married other people (in Krishna’s case, thousands of others). What they represent then, is not some idealized romance but rather, the attachment of our desire to experience the divine.Since the main attire during the Rajput period was the Sari (wrapped over the whole body with one end thrown on the right shoulder), I used fabrics such as georgette, silk, cotton, chiffon etc. I also used different methods of fabric printing such as stencilling and block printing, to create these Sarees and to capture the sensuality of the female figures in Rajput paintings.
DH: What has the response been to your work?
DK: The teachers were happy with what I did and I got a lot of compliments from the public. They found it hard to believe that the printed sarees were what I made.
DH: What are your plans now that Burrowes is done?
DK: It’s sad that Burrowes is the only art school in Guyana. I wish there was more I could’ve done there. But Burrowes is the end of it for me right now. I hope to get more into textiles and painting. Maybe I will go overseas to learn a bit more, come back home and do my own thing.
Darshani Kistama along with eight other students (all female) exhibited their art works at the recently concluded examination exhibition at the Umana Yana, as part of the requirements for graduation from the E.R. Burrowes School of Art. The graduation ceremony for the budding artists will be held later in the year.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on October 2, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: