Published: 13th February 2018
Dabaki: A journey of 16 artists through Cambodia in search of inspiration and magic
Dabaki takes artists on a journey through Cambodia were they will try and find both magic and inspiration that will spark their magnum opus
Artists are curious creatures and their inspiration, even fascinating. Forever seeking each other and finding magic when they finally come together to create art. In a quest to inspire and create magic, Akhil Reddy Kommidi initiated Dabaki, a cultural movement which aims to bring artists closer to inspiration, not only for himself but for 15 other artists through a nine-day journey through Cambodia. The inspiration behind Dabaki for Kommidi was, "To find answers to the big and small questions of life and use art of storytelling to share these answers." And while you read this, they are already two days into their journey, which began on February 10 and will be back home, fully-inspired with their muses on February 19.
Art is something that has always echoed with me as a person. Culture, which I believe comes from the word 'to cultivate', is the thread that connects
Akhil Reddy Kommidi, professional photographer
Three to go
"Inspiration, collaboration, actualisation." With these three words, the 30-year-old Kommidi sums up the three stages of the journey. The inspiration will be found not only among the cultural landmarks of the place but also through their interactions with the local artists as they display their art. Like the Apsara dance, a classical style of dance dating back to the Angkorian era, performed by the Traditional Cambodian Artists; Rehash Trash, a recycling workshop with Naga Earth and many more such performances and workshops.
All respects: Angkor Wat, one of the most famous temples of the world
The next step would be collaboration - both with fellow-travellers and the local artists. And finally, actualisation - "Two months after the journey, the artists will present their projects at an event," shares Kommidi. But what they are going to present and the medium with which they choose to share it is left open-ended, as it should be. "No artist likes to work in a constrained environment. So all I am doing is curating the journey, plugging in the resources and the rest is up to them," he says.
Those who seek
Kommidi is an established photographer himself. The last project he was a part of was 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat', a central-government initiative for Telangana and Haryana (think exchange) where artists were invited to strengthen cultural ties. The current one, which brought him to Cambodia, is a two-month project by Plan International where he is documenting the life of farmers in rural areas. And the artists chosen for Dabaki are, more or less, as prolific as he is, "I want to stay on the brink to stardom."
The word Dabaki is derived by taking inspiration from words from various parts of the world. Da has its origins in Italian and Portuguese, Ba in Egyptian and Ki in Japenese, Korean and Chinese
Take, for example, Sarojini Dantapalli who is focusing on solving urban issues through her own initiative Whimmaway (the group behind the art installation at T-Hub) and her design firm. This diversity was intentional as Kommidi feels that, "When artists from various backgrounds come to a new land to travel together and interact, inspiration becomes feasible." And he wishes that Dabaki serves as a launchpad for them and several such artists in the future.
And if you have missed the bus on Dabaki - Season One, breathe a sigh of relief as Kommidi plans to conduct three editions in a year. And plans on getting on board with more sponsors, especially with the government and tourism industry because, "These artists are ambassadors representing India in a foreign land, bringing back the culture of Cambodia and using their influences to work towards a project." Also, if you are at home there is a sense of familiarity but "a foreign land is like a blank canvas," he asserts.
Right outside: Elephants near the Bayon Temple
As a country, Kommidi feels that both urban and rural artists would rather go for the "low hanging fruit" which is a typical job rather than pursue art that runs in the family because understandably, being an artist is a struggle due to the lack of opportunities. Thus, the sons of rural artisans and talented urban artists rather take to the desk rather than the canvas. "And in a country like India where we are all struggling for space and recognition, it becomes more challenging," he says and Dabaki is his way of carving out the landscape for artists and giving them an ideal platform where inspiration and magic collide to create art through storytelling.
What the journey entails
Sunset at Angkor Wat and Opening Night (Artists Showcase along with Local Artists of Siem Reap). Temple Explorations of Bayon, Baphoun, Ta Prohm Ta Som and Banteay Samre. Kbal Spean (River of 1000 Lingas Trek) and Recycling Workshop with Naga Earth
Cambodian Live Arts Interaction (Phnom Penh). Artist Workshops (Nowhere Studio), Art Walk through the art spaces and Boat Cruise on Tonle Sap River. Cycling Tour to countryside of Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
River Cruise at Kampot. Bokor Mountain Trek and Print-Making Workshop at KAMA (Kampot Arts & Music Association)
Ferry to Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), snorkelling and sunset walk. Sunrise on the Island and departure
Meet the members
We catch up with three Hyderabadis who are joining Kommidi on this trip and ask them what they are expecting from Dabaki
For me, exploring movement and form has always been a number one priority. So both I and my husband, Gunjan Ashtaputre, who is a designer and animator, opted for this journey. There are so many artists from different mediums and genres so we will get to witness a lot more art. Also, the history of Cambodia has a lot to do with Hinduism and our culture. So, I will try and see where I can collaborate with a Cambodian dancer. It'll be exciting to hear their stories. I really have no agenda for the trip and I'll take it as it comes. I'm also really fascinated with Angor Wat. I think it will be an exciting and crazy trip
Aditi Rao, 26, dancer and choreographer
Honestly, I am not looking for anything specific, I'm just looking to be surprised. That's how inspiration works for me, it strikes us unawares and when we are not looking. It could come from anywhere, you just need to centre yourself. Also, I always wanted to explore the idea of a couple of musicians and artists coming together to explore a new place. This will be a completely different kind of a journey as compared to travelling alone or with friends. I am looking forward to spending some time by the river and listening to the old stories of Cambodia. I have a rough and vague idea of what I want but I'm just plain curious to experience the journey
Sarojini Dantapalli, 27, architecture and illustrator
Dabaki is a very enticing proposition to me. A few years ago, I had started this company called Legacy Stone and have always had an interest towards rock-cut temples, ornamentation and construction techniques, especially that of temples. These have always interested me as a hobby and I have been curious about it, like, Angkor Wat being one of the largest temples in the world. So for me, this is a study tour of sorts with temples and this journey. Eventually, I would want to use technology like CNC cutting for an architectural revivalism of Indian architecture moving forward. This is because I think we have forged into this era where we are all concrete and in 25 years, there will be a time when India will want to fall back to its roots. So that's the long-term vision for me - to work on an architectural revival of sorts.
Anurag Kuchukula, 30, Artist and Inventor