PUBLIC ART GRANT 2009 | WANPHRANG DIENGDOH

Public Art Grant 2009 was awarded to the project KALI KAMAI by Wanphrang K. Diengdoh. The winning proposal was selected with the help of an independent jury consisting of Sheba Chhachhi, Ravi Agarwal and K.T.Ravindran. The jury found Wanphrang’s KALI KAMAI project engaging at many levels: its cultural and geographical location (Shillong, Meghalaya), the artist’s own grounding in the site, and his attempt to utilise a shared space (the local share taxi) to engage in a dialogue with the public about the city’s history of social and political tension and address the relationship between the local Khasis and other migrant groups.

The Khasi term Kali Kamai translates as taxi or more literally as a ‘car for earning’, and is the popular local mode of transport in Shillong, Meghalaya where the project is located. The project involves the alteration of the local share-taxi making it into a mobile-site to firstly, study the relationships between the individual and the city, and secondly, address the city’s history of conflict and prevalent undercurrents of racial tension. The artist views the Kali Kamai as a one of the few truly public spaces in the city where ‘the fine lines of race are (forcibly?) blurred’ and will use this site to interface with the public through interactive audio-visual installations and one-on-one conversations.  

The Kali Kamai or the public taxi has been conceptualised and designed as a contemporary reflection on popular folktales that still exist in the oral tradition in the region. On each side of the vehicle we see painted the various narratives referring to Khasi folktale using contemporary references. The bulk of oral culture is still sustained by the people commuting in these public vehicles, though not directly retold they emerge through reference and conversations that take place here, a space that Diengdoh has tuned into and has been documenting in the last year. To him this is the space where the links to histories, both personal and the community's, can be found. The documented material will be presented in the Kali Kamai on a touch screen, urging the passengers to explore and exchange stories during their journey across the city.  

Wanphrang K. Diengdoh has a BA in Mass Communication from St. Antony’s College, Shillong and MA Mass Communication from MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi. He is an independent photographer, has directed and edited a few short films and as a musician is part of Stitch, a Delhi-based rock band.