Locust Time: Environmental Art by Sheba Chhachhi

The swarm of Locusts seen across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are the latest instalment of the plague-like conditions that India is battling in 2020. As the skies turned black, many took to social media to comment on the biblical times we are living in. But, locusts are not a new phenomenon in India. From an early time, they have been considered to be symbols of death and destruction, used to warn people to correct their actions to prevent disasters. Photographer Sheba Chhachhi portrays this theme in her distinctive environmental art ‘Locust Time’, now part of the collection at Govt. Museum & Art Gallery Chandigarh.

#Didyouknow locusts are mentioned in the exodus as the 8th plague that God cursed Egypt with? It was a punishment for the Pharaoh for not letting the Israeli slaves free. Click To Tweet


‘Locust Time’, is a moving image light box which consist of a series of translucent and transparent layers. It is created by superimposing smaller images on top of a satellite image of Delhi and Agra. Chhachhi fuses the once-upon-a-time vibrant ecology (almost imaginary now) that flourished on the Yamuna riverbank with today’s frenzied urbanisation tales. The Locusts – as omens throw caution about the irreversible air contamination and drought that is to come. The artist presents a picture of a dystopian world, showing us what is to come in the future if we keep up this negligent attitude towards nature.

Locust Time Sheba Chhachhi environment
Locust Time by Sheba Chhachhi | Chandigargh Museum

A CLOSER LOOK at Locust Time:

Sheba Chhachhi uses mythological icons and motifs to highlight the transition of this area. Where once it was a land of culture and tradition (7 cities of Delhi), it is now subject to hyper-industrialisation leading to degradation of land and environment.

The ground created by a satellite image of the dried up floodplains of River Yamuna (Delhi and Agra). It features the bird’s eye view of a historic monument in this region. Can you spot it?

taj mahal environment art satellite image
Agra and birds

There is a female singer sitting below a tree of full of vultures. She is but a memory, about to fade away…

Singer and vultures

Notice the motifs of locust women (purple shadows) who are both the ‘observers’ and the ‘survivors’ of the the ecological disaster depicted behind them. There are also numerous Nagakanyas that are the keepers of water – protectors of the earths treasures.

locust women
Naga Kanyas

Sheba Chhachhi makes a bold statement through her art. This piece is a wake up call to all of us to stop the mad rush of urbanisation, to take care of the Earth and to restore her to her true beauty.

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