Sheela Gowda “Art is about how you look at things”


Sheela Gowda is a sculptor and installation artist working in Bengalaru (formerly known as Bangalore)-South India.

She is currently exhibiting her work  “Behold”, a truly extraordinary installation at Tate modern, which will leave you in awe.

At first you go into the room and look around and see rope like black material hanging from the ceiling and of the walls, then you look closely and notice the texture is similar to human hair, but obviously it couldn’t be hair, how could anybody find so much real human hair and woven it all together to create all of that?

And then you realise that yet, Gowda has created four thousand metres of hair of different people, netted together.

When I found out that the material was real human hair, I felt unsettled about that, but after I watched the short documentary about Gowda’s thinking process and inspirations, I found something very beautiful and powerful in her as an artist and her work as an art form.

“Each Rope has probably hundreds of individual’s hair within it of all gender, ages, and communities, so it is really a coming together of people.”

The hair rope is used as a talisman, as a sign of being in control of belongings, but in Gowda’s opinion, it also holds a lot of vulnerability.  

There’s something special about so many pieces of hair and DNA of people, woven Considering that so many hairs of people of colour are used for this piece is a big part of the meaning, for me.

We live in a society where white supremacy turns us all against each other and forces us to whitewash ourselves. White supremacy makes us deny our ethnic history and our relationship to our own people.

Shot by Christoph Storz

But Gowda has created this body of work, in which she uses black hair, hair that is in my opinion a memory and gift from our ancestors.  Let us not forget the hatred against black hair from both a racist perspective but inherent racism within ourselves, and for all of this to be used as material, woven together, to me it’s a symbol of solidarity between people of colour. The ropes are strong pieces of material, and that symbolises the strength we have together in our own communities, a power that many may fear and rise against.

You can see Gowda’s piece Behold at the Materials and Objects display at Tate Modern.