Mariska Ondrich - PREVIEW

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Mariska Ondrich

Mariska Ondrich An artist's statement

venerating sacred immanent MotherGoddesses which existed once all over the world. In the whole of Tamil Nadu, one can

Village Goddess festivals of Tamil Nadu

discover temples, shrines and sacred groves

represent a very ancient tradition of

dedicated to Mariyamman, Kaliyamman,

numerous diseases. Therefore, the Tree is often referred to as Village Pharmacy for having the ability of curing many different ailments. The main season for the festivals of the Village Goddesses (Amman which means Mother) takes place in the month of panguni (middle of March to middle of April) and Adi (middle of July to middle of August). Every year, in the Tamil Month of panguni, people of Umachigulam celebrate a great festival for the Village-Goddess Kaliyamman. Her temple is situated at the entrance of Umachigulam. On Friday, 4th of April 2014, a procession of devotees starts from Sri Siddhi Vinayagar koyil, one kilometer distance to Umachigulam. The devotees were preparing Akkini catti (fire pots), decorating terracotta votive figurines like legs, hands, heads, whole body figures, cow figures and thousand eye pots. Accompanied by traditional village musicians with their ecstatic drum beats and the sound of the Nadesvaram, the procession takes its way on New Natham Road towards the temple of Kaliyamman. Since 2003, I live in the South of Tamil Nadu and started to re-search the Village Goddess veneration. First, accompanied by an analogue camera and numerous film rolls, I began with a documentation of those unique festivities. Finally, in 2011, I got a DSLR camera with video function. However, only in 2013, I decided to capture the energy of those festivities as videos. My videos show the experiences of (some) participants of the festival, their emotions, spontaneous experiences. Caption 1

Mandaiamman and many other local Goddesses with numerous different names. The most sacred tree in this tradition is the Neem Tree, regarded herself as a MotherGoddess and possessing the power of healing

For me, the making of the video and the participation in the procession is a spontaneous experience, too. As the procession continues, the film continues to develop, a film with no linear structure, corresponding to another understanding of the flowing of time which is perceived in a cyclic manner.

An interview with

Mariska Ondrich The works by Mariska Ondrich, visual artist and filmmaker, living in Southern Tamil Nadu, seem to real the hidden primitive forces of Nature, avoiding a postpositivistic approach, Mariska , you define yourself as an “eco-spiritual artist�, could you introduce our readers to your peculiar vision of art? The inspirations for my art are Mother Earth and Nature, especially the Neem Tree Mothers. Through their inspiration, I discovered the source of my artistic expression and creativity. Creating a painting is for me meditation and celebration of my beloved Earth and Nature Mothers, their immense, healing energies and their eternal wisdom. Indeed, we paint together. Before I start creating my artworks, I meditate with the Earth and Nature Mothers, sitting under my beloved Neem Tree Mothers, embracing Them, watching the Crow Mothers sitting in their branches...I also visit other powerful places of the sacred Earth and Nature like Caves, Rivers, Waterfalls, Fountains, Forests, Hills, different places where Mother Earth and Nature guide me to receive my visions and healing, creative energies. The dance forms part of my meditation before I start painting. While dancing with the energies of Mother Earth and Nature, interconnected like the eternal web of life of Grandmother Spider, I become part of Their eternal dance. Their immense, healing energies start flowing inside myself; continue flowing and manifesting inside my paintings. In accordance with the philosophy of my art, I use only self-made colours. For the preparation, which is also a part of the ritual, I take only natural ingredients

Mariska Ondrich

like turmeric, indigo, beetroot juice, Neem Tree resin. My artworks invite the viewers to re-connect to the healing energies of the Earth and Nature Mothers. Further, they are a visualisation of a world where Mother Earth and Nature, the source of all life, and their ancient, sacred wisdom are venerated, respected and honoured. When did you come across the Village Goddess festivals of Tamil Nadu? I could ask myself the question: Did I come across the Village Goddess festivals or did the Village Goddess festivals come to me, bringing me back to ancient celebrations of the sacred immanent Mother-Goddesses? Actually, also before visiting my first Village Goddess festival, I was already on my path of earth-based spirituality. I re-discovered ancient sacred immanent Mother-Goddesses – Earth

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and Nature Goddesses, fragments telling about their festivities, speaking through archaeological remains and short citations in history accounts. Further, I came across books on matriarchal societies where women play central roles and create peaceful, egalitarian societies. In this form of society, Mother Earth and Nature, sacred immanent MotherGoddesses were and are still venerated. One day, I re-discovered a fascinating ancient civilisation, the so-called Indus civilisation, contrary to other civilisations in this period of antiquity, temples, hierarchical structures, etc. did not exist. The main archaeological remains were numerous terracotta figurines of MotherGoddesses with bird-shaped faces, animals and seals with mythological depictions of plants, animals with a mysterious script consisting of

symbols. Then, I came across a tiny footnote mentioning Village Goddess veneration in Tamil Nadu... In 2003, I arrived in Madurai and discovered in and around Madurai sacred groves and small temples of ancient immanent Mother-Goddesses, the independent, autonomous, all-powerful Village Goddesses of Tamil Nadu like Mariyamman, Kaliyamman, Mandaiyamman... and was told about the special celebrations taking mostly place in the months of panguni (March/April) and adi ( July/August). The first Village Goddess festival I attended took place in Virudhunagar, a small town approximately a 1,5 hour’s drive from Madurai, a celebration for Parashakti Mariyamman, venerated as Rain Goddess, in panguni 2014.

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Next to her temple, is the sanctuary for Veyilunkanthamman, her elder sister, venerated as Sun-Goddess. I remember my joy and happiness when I arrived at the celebration, everywhere ecstatic drum beats, devotees dancing in trance and then suddenly, the procession of Mulaipari, hundreds of women carrying earthen pots with grown seeds of grain, pots representing the sacred immanent Mother-Goddesses, the procession appeared like a yellow-green Snake, winding her way through the narrow streets of Virudhunagar. Mulaipari ,this ancient ritual for Village Goddesses, with special songs (kummi pattu) and kummi (dance) became, is and will be my favourite ritual at the celebrations... You have started your project accompanied by an analogue camera: could you describe

what was the influence of this preliminary phase of the overall work? The time with the analogue camera was an interesting experience...I remember taking numerous photos in order to document the processions, to get a glimpse of their flow, the energies at work. With a huge bag full of film rolls, I had to change the films and still, stay in connection with the procession. Even with the analogue camera, it was my target to capture the Village Goddess festival in a way that gives an impression of the experiences, feelings, and special moments. Although the photos represented the festival and still have value for me as documentation, I felt that documenting Village Goddess festivals only with taking photos has its limitations. The festival is always moving, full of energy and ecstasy. So, if I only take photos of the processions, I get photos of

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the participants, also photos of the procession. However, I felt that the energy and the spirit of the Village Goddess festival cannot be transferred only by photographic means... So, I decided to start a new adventure, making films with a DSLR camera which also allows me to take photos which I still consider as important part of the work as they will be integrated in future books of the Village Goddess festivals. For many reasons, the hybrid nature of the new DSLR cameras is a perfect choice for me. Because of the compact size and light weight, it is for me easy to participate in the procession, I can become a part of it. As the DSLR camera does not have the prominent features of a film camera, it stays much more discreet, does not disturb too much and also allows a free movement. For my way of documentation, this camera type allows me to stay flexible and spontaneous.

Your report on Village Goddess festivals of Tamil Nadu has a non-linear narration and an open formula: it is virtually never ending, circular, could you explain this “open� nature of your work? The question is a very interesting one which I will also answer in an open way, leaving way for further explorations... At a particular moment, I arrive at the festival, and at one moment, I leave a certain festival, however, I will continue to arrive again at the next festival, maybe the same celebration or another one. Therefore my form of participation becomes a cyclic one; there is no beginning and no end, the same applies to the Village Goddess celebrations. Therefore, my way of documentation corresponds to the inherent time perception of Village Goddess festivities.

Mariska Ondrich

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One could ask, however, a festival has to have a fixed time schedule. Not in a very concrete way. For sure, the days for the celebration get fixed, but the start and end of the festival do not follow strict linear time patterns. Further, the participants take their own time to prepare for the rituals and if they feel it is the right moment, the procession starts. The Village Goddess festival has its own time, consisting of moments; together they make the experience of the festival. For the participants, the mainstream perception of time does not apply. One stays in the present moment, experiences the festival and the energy which has a healing and liberating effect as one transcends into trance and ecstasy. Structures and measurements of time in a linear way completely cease to exist. Like the ancient societies from where it originates, the Village Goddess festival follows a cyclic perception of

time which corresponds to the veneration of Village Goddesses in general who represent or are regarded as interconnected with Mother Earth and Nature. If one observes Nature, time is always cyclic. In fact, the most ancient calendars were based on the phases of the Moon which are cyclic like the natural menstruation cycle of women. Actually, those calendars having 13 months were created by women who observed the cycles of the Moon in accordance with their own menstruation cycles. With the onset of hierarchical, patriarchal societies all over the world, the perception of time became also structured in a similar way. Nowadays, most societies have forgotten the ancient way of cyclic time which is in eternal flow. Instead, a system of linear time was

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created. In recent times, this perception in combination with acceleration of every day-life in mainstream society leads to great imbalances which cause immense problems for the development of peaceful, egalitarian and ecological societies in harmony with the cycles of Nature. Everything has to become faster and faster. People should get the feeling that there is no time. Although one lives in modern houses and cities, humans are a species of Nature and should live in harmony with natural cycles which indeed, becomes a difficult task while one is surrounded by skyscrapers and betony. However, one can rest optimist as there exist also tendencies of resisting those destructive perceptions of time and embracing other methods of creating one’s life. In the search of other models, tribal societies and also Village Goddess festivals can be helpful to re-think different patterns and re-create a perception of

time which is in accordance with the cycles of Nature. In this context, I remember the famous fable of the hare and the tortoise. In the long run, the tortoise wins the race. In context of the perception of time, I would interpret the story in the following way. Stress and fast life symbolised by the hare only lead to exhaustion. However, the tortoise who is in many Asian countries a symbol of a happy, long and peaceful life shows the way to success and to reach a fulfilled, harmonious life – following her own rhythm, her own time, her inner voice and listening to her heart, she reaches every goal...

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