After the Covid 19 Pandemic, the world found itself in pieces that had to be picked up by those left behind. And though we have returned to normalcy, leaving the horror behind us, we must take pause and look back at our rapidly globalising world coming to a screeching halt. In the two years of the pandemic, we lost over 6 million people. It is strange how we immediately bounced back as if nothing had ever happened. But this rapid “recovery” mustn’t come at the cost of forgetting the hard truths that we were forced to learn.
The world watched along as hallways were converted into hospital wards, as nations dug mass graves, as men in PPE suits lowered canvassed bodies into graves and funeral pyres were relentlessly lit. When funerals take place without the bereaved, we all become the bereaved.
It is the slow growing wound in our hearts that makes us wince with pain every now and then, but never completely goes away. It is a hole that seemingly pulls us inwards and apart with all the gravity in the universe put together. It is a sickness of the soul, unmeasured, for it doesn’t take our lives, it just makes it harder to continue to function normally. We have seen the definitive light at the end of this dark tunnel, but the loss we have incurred is colossal. The chair once occupied by a father now stares back at us with all its emptiness. The plants slowly wilt away, for the last thing a mother watered were some eyes that had to watch her go. The overbearing weight of this void, these fragments of emptiness, haunt us. Our routines and daily rituals were crushed under lockdowns and the fear of an unseen predator.
A world, although flawed, was brought to its knees. A single global community confined to the walls embellished with closed doors. For the first time in human history, every single person alive had been united by a single emotion, a single fear, and a common angst. Perhaps, how we reacted to it may be as distinct as we are as individuals, but they are all responses to a single emotion nonetheless.
While the pandemic was still at its peak, I had responded to this feeling of angst, fear and sorrow in the only way I knew how. The sculpture “Riderless World” is a representation of the world as it presented itself to us during the years of the pandemic; a eulogy for a world torn asunder. It is a bronze horse which is broken apart into pieces that are placed on marble platforms. Its tail and part of its abdomen are taken apart. In the deep cavity of the horse, white roses engulf a single lit candle, to remind us to always keep those we lost illuminated in our minds and souls. On a wall behind the horse, an ever growing list of names of people scrolls slowly, washing over the body of the horse. People from over 150 countries continue to add their loved ones to the list. I think it is important now more than ever to remember, and do right by those we lost.
The sculpture reflects a world that is full of energy and strength, but with a broken spirit. It is an elegy for all that we have lost, but it was also meant as a call to pull ourselves back together and move forward in a way that makes those we have lost proud. I think we have done that to some degree, but there is work yet to be done. It is a celebration of the brave souls that got us through that time, volunteers and healthcare professionals alike. “Riderless World” is a representation of two parallel catastrophes, the one we can and have measured, embodied by the names that scroll on the wall, but also our broken hearts and wounded souls, embodied by cracks on the horse.
The sculpture is my way of telling the world that we must learn to be better from this crisis. May we never again lose people like we have over the course of the pandemic. “Riderless World” is a space for remembrance, a ray of hope, or even a shoulder to cry on.
The website of “Riderless World”remains live to this day so that people may memorialise and celebrate their loved ones lost to covid. It is a sculpture that requires the participation of the world.
The sculpture Riderless World by Sonal Ambani was shown at the European Cultural Centre (ECC) in 2022 during the Venice Biennale at Palazzo Mora, Italy.
Photographs by Amar Ambani