The idea of a civilization stems from a desire for history that charts an unbroken journey of humanity through time. It is a desire for the knowledge of who we are and what is our place in the grand order of things. History is fundamental to identity, but it isn’t a straight line that connects the present to the past. It isn’t contained in the neat little stories of textbooks or encyclopaedias that chronicle the rise and fall of nations. There is a history in everyone’s lives.  Without its affordances to our identity, we would be reduced to empty shells living in a cultural amnesia. Our lives are rich with stories of the past, monuments of art, culture, and sciences left by our ancestors on which we may build further and eventually pass the torch to posterity. This is the very essence of civilization and of my collection of sculptures titled Forebearer.

We must build upon the monuments of arts, science, and culture left by our ancestor

As much as we’d like to call ourselves “self-made” people, we’re inherently indebted to those who laid the groundwork for everything we feel we’ve single-handedly achieved, for nobody emerges from a vacuum, and in this fact, we must find humility. While our story begins when we’re born, our journey in life always begins in medias res. The two elephants in red fibre titled Wanderer-1 and Wanderer-2 represent the long meandering journeys taken by our ancestors, as they created the very conditions for our existence. The knowledge distilled from these journeys moves society forward and it is our absolute responsibility to parse this knowledge, add to it, and pass it along as it was bequeathed to us.

Our journey in life begins in medias res

As humans, we’ve evolved into ascribing primacy to knowledge as the most fundamental asset, as made abundantly clear by big tech companies tracking your every move on the internet. However, knowledge is much more than an effective tool for aggressive targeted marketing. Historically, knowledge has been crucial to our survival as a species. The same tradition of passing down the knowledge of healthy and dangerous plants in the stone age, still endures today as we are taught to survive in a world, although modern, in some ways equally unforgiving. The elephant Epiphany embodies this idea of knowledge that our elders carry within them like a lotus that enables us to rise above the murkiness of the world around us. It is this recognition that is embodied by the elephant titled Euphoria.

The lotus of knowledge that lets us rise above the murkiness of life

It is of paramount importance for us to recognize our place in this endless chain of inheritance, for it is not only about what we receive from those who came before us, but more importantly, what we’ll leave for those who succeed us. We are but an infinitesimally small chapter in the ceaseless march of time, but with the potential to make the future a better place as we in our turn become the forebearers for the generations to come.

Sonal Ambani working on Euphoria

In memory of my forebearer, Ramnikbhai H. Ambani. The radiance of your unrelenting quest for knowledge, humility, and compassion continues to shine on me and my family.

The collection Forebearers can be experienced at Sonal Ambani’s Solo Sculpture Show “Transcendental Time” at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity in Kolkata, India.

Photographs by Amar Ambani.