Significantly, every fold and recess of the hide is contoured meticulously by the patterns of thousands of white bindis that are intricately arranged. They are organically swarm like a second skin, across the beast, seemingly animating its otherwise inert flesh.
In this powerfully emotive sculpture, Bharti Kher combines the bindi and the elephant, both prominent symbols of Indian culture. She asks us whether this is a vision of India on the rise or one exhausted by rapid modernization. Executed in 2006, this work is described as follows in the catalogue note:
“Awe-inspiring in its scale, detail and beauty, this life-sized female Indian elephant brought to its knees in a seemingly untenable position, simultaneously peaceful and painful, is a vision that engenders extreme pathos from the viewer. She personifies this creature as the archetype of India, its culture and civilization and marries it with another identifier of Indian ethnicity: the bindi, a mark of pigment applied to the forehead associated with the Hindu symbol of the third eye that sees beyond the material world. It is also traditional in wedding ceremonies.Bharti Kher is aware of these associations. She plays on the pluralism of Indian customs that are curiously juxtaposed with Western values.
"In today's modern India, however, such past cultural associations are increasingly diminished and bindis have been transformed into mass-produced, vinyl stickers, disposable objects hollow of meaning which have become secular, feminine fashion accessories. Kher was particularly attracted to the white, serpentine bindi used in this work because of its spermatozoa form and its oxymoronic relationship to the female accessory, thereby striking deeper associations of gender roles and definitions of femininity in modern India."