I encountered Artist K.L Leon's Earthbound creative universe first through a series of delicate pastels of the humble tuber- Yam or Chena as it is called in Malayalam . The soil still adhered to their heavy circular kind of shape .Like a strange vegetal queen.Leon's Yams were still breathing with Life sitting in their frames.
‘Specimen 6 ‘,a later work shared here ,however looked like a family portrait composed of various indispensable members of any rural agricultural operation in Kerala .One especially struck me hard ... the Brass Pesticide sprayer .You can see it in the picture.
Chemical pesticides & fertilizers were introduced in this country only around 1960s & 1970s. The ‘Green Revolution’ program to revamp agriculture in India was a blitzkrieg of high-yield seeds, chemical fertilizers & pesticides, mechanised tools & equipments, high yielding crop varieties, modern irrigation systems like huge hydel projects , post harvest technologies and use of spray chemicals .
All these were launched with the typical throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater bravado that has characterized all processes of Modernization the world over.
That was when the brass pesticide spray portable cylinder entered our rural homes .
As pests developed greater and greater resistance ,more and more lethal combinations were marketed . In yields like Mango and Cashew Nuts for instance, the spraying in industrial orchards starts at the flowering stage itself that ensures extremely high levels of toxicity in every layer of the fruit.
Who has not heard of the issues in Muthalamada Mango orchards in Tamilnadu and the heart rending tragedies of Endosulfan aerial sprays in the killing cashew fields of Kasargod in Kerala?
The Fallout however began to show when soil quality plummeted ,Nature's self healing mechanisms were badly skewed off balance .The worst hit are leafy vegetables like cabbage ,spinach varieties etc.
(At this point my hands pause trembling a little as I recall being witness to the earliest pesticide consumption suicides in Kerala in the late 80's /early 90's)
Even though pesticides are technically sprayed on land, they can make their way into a water source, such as a river, ocean, or pond. For instance: Pesticides from an orchid may end up in a nearby stream due to runoff. If a body of water becomes contaminated with the chemicals, many fish and other animals die and get sick. This can throw the whole ecosystem off balance.
Pesticides can also affect groundwater by a process known as leeching. Many people depend on groundwater for their drinking supply, yet, if that water has pesticides in it, it is unsanitary and harmful for the people to drink.
Another way pesticides can spread and cause potential harm is by volatilization. Volatilization occurs when a pesticide turns into a gas or vapor after it has been sprayed, allowing it to travel through the air and spread to different pieces of land.
Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. Studies have linked pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides can even be very harmfulto fetuses because the chemicals can pass from the mother during pregnancy or if a mother breast feeds her baby .
Of course consuming one fruit with pesticides won't kill but the build up in the body over time can be potentially detrimental to health and should be avoided as much as possible.
Ok ,so now that you know how the slow poisoning by pesticides works through our lifestyle practices and choice of foods, what are you going to do about it?
That is where we at Lumiere come in .
At this stage we are going to steal the Police department motto and make it our own -
"To Serve and to Protect ".
That's what we appoint ourselves to do where the most basic essential of Life -Food, is concerned ,for you and your loved ones.
365 days a year.
PS: K.L.Leon (b. Thrissur, Kerala, 1974)
Leon completed a Bachelors in Fine Arts from College of Fine Arts Thiruvananthapuram in 2001 and a Masters in Painting from SN School, Hyderabad Central University in 2003. He also has a degree in Botany from Calicut University, Kerala. A noted painter today in the Indian contemporary Art scene today ,his works have been exhibited at home and abroad.KL Leon was a painter in residence in the previous edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale and lives and works in Kochi.