Suchitra Mattai’s Held Still in a Silent Echo is rooted in the uncanny, the romantic, and the nostalgic, where circular hoops and other added elements transform a colonial, European landscape tapestry by weaving in a narrative of a non-white figure. The tapestry, which the artist acquired from Belgium, shows a common image that’s frequently been replicated—a pastoral village in an idyllic space, reflective of Western, hegemonic historical narratives. Mattai weaved and embroidered into it, adding other elements that are part of an Indo-Caribbean narrative. Some elements are very carnivale-esque, with braiding, beads, trim, and felt, like a putting together of disparate parts. All of the colors are heightened in a way that’s reflective of South Asian textiles, as well as the vibrant colors of the tropics. The chains reference the chains of bondage, while the antlers add a fairy tale quality. Various cultural experiences are being wed together, reconciling each other.
“The hoops become lenses,” says Mattai, “and the young woman is held still. She’s in movement, and she is movement, but there’s a silent tension between that energy and a stopped motion. These hoops, these lenses, allow the viewer to enter that particular moment”.