The Sea of Pain is Raul Zurita’s poignant ode to Galip Kurdi. The five year old who drowned alongside his mother and younger brother Alan–immortalised by a heart-rending image evocative of the Syrian refugee crisis–with nary a mention. Not even a fleeting one. The Chilean poet’s installation at Aspinwall House, for the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale, invites visitors to wade through knee-deep water in a cavernous warehouse to read, literally, the writing on the wall.
“Dig, boy, dig!” urged 19th century prospectors, it is said, on getting whiff of what lay beneath. Whether Digboi came by its moniker as a result of wordplay, as is popularly believed, has passed into the realm of amused conjecture. Historians will have you know that Di is a prefix meaning stream in Singpho, and the prevailing reference–Diboi Nallah, minus the ’g’–may have somewhat encouraged it. What wasn’t mere inference though were the tell-tale signs of crude oil reported from the rainforest of Upper Assam as early as 1825. A Lt R Wilcox of the 46th Regiment Native Infantry, while on a survey of the Namchik River (roughly 40kms east of Digboi) had observed ‘great bubbles of gas and green petroleum’ rising to the surface at Supkhong. And that ‘the jungles are full of an odour of petroleum’. Tea-explorer Charles Alexander Bruce also spotted ‘many oil seepages upstream of Makum’ in 1828.