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What I Did Last Summer: Rohini Devasher

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The artist reflects on a ‘life-changing’ summer — and the sea voyage that showed her the powerful link between humans and the environment

There comes a moment every once in a while when clichés transcend themselves and become fact. This past summer really, truly changed my life. In May-June, I spent 26 days on board the High Trust, an oil tanker on route from Fiji to Singapore, stopping over at the tropical Samoan islands of Apia and Pago-Pago along the way. I was an artist-in-residence with The Owner’s Cabin — an exciting residency programme that gives artists the means to travel the world by sea.

What an incredible experience! I saw the Pacific Ocean at depths of over 4300 metres — the water a blue so deep that it was opaque. And, at depths of just 15 feet, I crossed the blindingly turquoise waters of the Torres Strait. I saw horizon to horizon skies with clouds of every description, and every night, I watched the Milky Way galaxy high overhead, bright with dense clusters of stars. When I finally disembarked at Singapore, I felt the most profound sense of loss. Not only did I miss the ship’s crew, with whom I had formed a very real bond in those four weeks, but also the thrill of the voyage. Experiencing the planet the way I did felt like the most incredible privilege.

Now, of course, there will be plenty of work. I’m excited to play with all the ideas and possibilities that I devised over the course of my journey. In fact, the voyage threw into sharp relief a question that I have been thinking about for a long time now: how do we shape the environment, and in turn, how are we shaped by it? The Owner’s Cabin made me realise more than ever how closely we are tied to our planet’s present and future.

Delhi, 15.01.2019