Uyir Eluthukkal for Figure it Out at the Lewisham Arthouse, mixed media, 2020
Divya made a series of stuffed Tamil alphabets while learning to read and write Tamil, her mother tongue.
This allowed her to make the very abstracted process of learning a familiar yet unfamiliar language more tangible. The labour that went into making them were metaphors for the struggle in learning the language and was a way of embodying it. The large fleshy fabric alphabets felt like portals into time connecting her life to the histories of her ancestors. This tied in with her research where she had read about Jewish mysticism which is of the belief that each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Beth is a magical gateway into an entire sphere of existence.
The tracing of the alphabet is also reflected in the stitch tracing along the old photos of her family members. The intimate family photo montage presented on the ‘Madras Checks’ fabric is a nod to another story of colonisation with the design of the unique madras checks having being developed in Madras (now renamed Chennai) in the 1700s and exported to Europe and America where it still is a mark of high fashion and status but with no royalties given to the textile weavers in its country of origin.