Artist: Akshay Raj Singh Rathore
Location: Partapur, Rajasthan, India
Year of completion: 2010
Researcher: Gregory Door

Palayan, named for the Hindi term for “migration,” was a site-specific, interactive intervention by Indian-born artist Akshay Raj Singh Rathore during an artist residency through Sandahbh Artist Workshop. Rathore asked Muslim and Hindi residents of two adjacent neighborhoods to dip their feet in white paint before traversing a street common to both communities. The paths that resulted served as a temporary map of the migration patterns of the neighborhoods.

Rathore’s residency took place in the town of Partapur, in the Banswara district of the state of Rajasthan, India. Although Partapur is technically in Rajasthan, it is situated at the border of the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, each with its own culture and language. In particular, the Hindu town is home to a significant minority of Muslims.

More Below


The Muslim neighborhood of Bohrawadi particularly captured the artist’s attention. Home to a sect called the Sunni Bohra, the neighborhood was populated primarily by women and children as the men had all migrated to jobs in the Middle East. “The edges of Bohrawadi are where the Hindus and Muslims come face to face,” Rathore writes, “they are the contested spaces, where the two communities lay their claim.” Rathore chose one of these border streets shared by the Bohra and their Hindi neighbors to enact the project.

Over the course of one day, the artist asked each person traversing the street to allow his or her feet to be dipped in white paint. As the day progressed, “migratory” patterns emerged.

“It was an interesting experience for the audience, as the work kept on getting complex,” writes the artist. “In the morning, they could identify the first man's trail. By noon, it had become difficult to identify the individual, and by the evening, it all started looking like white paths, like a game-trail in a forest, where you can't pin-point which animal made it first.”

Naturally, Rathore spoke with numerous members of the community and collected a crowd of onlookers while accomplishing the project. “The participatory nature of the project enabled great interaction with the people and very interesting exchanges,” he says, “it changed the audience's perspective on narrow ideas of religion, community belonging, and ownership of earth.”

The piece drew attention to the differences among the religious neighbors by putting people into more direct contact and addressing their difference directly. At the same time, the bare footprints painted on the street emphasized human universality. The piece also spoke to environmental concerns, emphasizing the non-linear and organic ways that human beings traverse space. After a few days, the paint was obliterated by foot-traffic, suggesting human transience.

Rathore frequently works on ephemeral projects of this sort, or “outside of the white box,” as he puts it. That’s where “art can still provide meaningful dialogs to society,” he says.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency