Joya: AiR / writer Jonaki Ray / India


When I applied or a writer’s residency at Joya: AiR I had been attracted by the word interdisciplinary in it’s description. Having studied science and currently working in the field of communication, it seemed like a good fit. I applied and sent my writing samples and was thrilled to be selected! There was a problem though.

I had fallen recently and my left hand was in a plaster cast almost till the elbow. Would I be able to undertake this journey – thousands a miles away from home, family and everything familiar? My doubts swarmed like bees in my head, and I nearly cancelled, but decided to come at the last moment.

My route took me through Delhi – Istanbul – Madrid – Sevilla – Granada – Vélez Rubio. Along the way I learned to deal with security and customs, drag my suitcase one-handed, figure out the trains and buses in Spain, and communicate in rudimentary Spanish. By the time I reached Cortijada Los Gázquez (the home of Joya: AiR) I was exhausted. Yet this white, rectangular building, renovated and combined from five different houses, felt like home.

I learned about the ecological and artistic projects, walked, and decompressed, finally! As I chatted with my hosts, ate delicious meals everyday, and observed the landscape around me, I realised the commonality of problems between Spain and India – water shortage, drought (floods in some areas), farmers crises, villagers flocking to cities and resultant urban crises.

I realised that a lot of conservation efforts – rainwater harvesting, water recycling, solar electricity usage, renewal of ancient water catchments could be adopted in India as well. My stay taught me about the intersection of art and ecology and the importance of conversations and collaborations between people from various disciplines. The hope and faith that my hosts and other resident artists put into various projects, inspired the same in me. I started painting, after years, and integrating my poetry with my paintings.

During my journey here, I had (inadvertently) witnessed the Semana Santa processions. Perhaps it is fitting that I am leaving with a feeling of renewed faith – in myself and in life.

Jonaki Ray

Writer in residence April 2016

Rachel Arena