Installation artist Sapna Dube’s latest project asks people to reconnect with letters

Now that we are under lockdown, there is time to contemplate, re-evaluate, and express gratitude to each other, she says

Do you miss the days of waiting for the postman, eagerly anticipating a reply to the letter you sent a loved one? Or perhaps you have never had that experience, having only known emails and texts.

Either way, that is where Bengaluru-based installation artist, painter and printmaker Sapna Dube comes in.

Her latest project, Letter, aims to be a celebration of hand-written correspondence and a chance to connect with those we care about the most, particularly at a time when social distancing is the norm, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All that one needs to do is put pen to paper and write a note, letter or a card.

Says Sapna, “Now that we are under lockdown, there is time to contemplate, re-evaluate, and express gratitude to each other. What is actually important are the human relationships, the people we know and love. This is, I believe, the right time to connect or reconnect. Because we are going to write at this time, I would think that it would be about what we are going through and the complexity of living such a limited life, and being away from loved ones.”

Stating that the beautiful thing about letters are that they are tangible, she says that the rules for participation are very simple. People can write notes, as long or short as they want, or thank-you cards using pictures or anything else. It just has to be handwritten. Even if one can’t post the letters now, it can be shared with the intended recipient by sending them a photo of the letter. If you don’t want to send out a letter, just write for yourself, she says.

“If it’s too personal, you don’t have to share it with me. But if you would like to share it, I will include it as part of a virtual public art installation, either on my website or another platform,” says Sapna.

There is no time limit as of now and no geographical boundaries, as Sapna has already received letters from China and Belgium.

Talking about the genesis of the project, she says, “I have grown up writing letters, and I had pen friends. I cherish those memories. The inspiration for a letter-themed public art installation came from Nelson Mandela’s letters from prison, Anne Frank’s diary, and Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters to his daughter, Indira.”

In fact, Sapna had two other projects, both in 2018, that were letter-themed. The first being Messages From My Dad, a papercut installation, for which she printed out a note that her father had written her. “That was on Father’s Day. I got people to recollect what fathers tell them constantly such as ‘study well’ and ‘be good’. It gave people a chance to connect with their dads in a special way.”

For the second project, Sapna was awarded a grant by Art in Transit in association with Namma Metro and India Post. “I had a four-hour public art installation called Letter where I distributed postcards to transit passengers at the Cubbon Park metro station on Children’s Day and asked them to write a note. So many people of all ages participated. Another thing I realised was that language didn’t matter. People wrote in so many different languages, Bangalore being such a melting pot.”

Sapna adds, “When I came up with Messages From My Dad, it wasn’t the WhatsApp and Facebook messages or the emails that I remembered, it was the note that he wrote when I got my first job telling me how proud he was. Those are the tangible memories.”

Interested persons can email a photo of their letter to [email protected]

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