Ambulante by Rekha Sammer
Purposeful I walk every step
Sinking deep sometimes shallow
To and fro up and down and around
I pause and repeat as tides ebb and flow
Laden shoulders and miles to go
Sweaty brow and shifting sands
Struggle I must Strive I shall knowing
A million footprints of mine are
Forever condemned to follow yours…
As I sat on Ipanema beach, sipping a caipirinha, watching the endless rhythm of waves, I become aware of a different rhythm on the beach. I notice the vendors, shoulders laden with wares, their footsteps sinking deep in the sand, walking to and fro, cyclically encircling the customer. Each had their own distinct call and pitch; some gentle in tone while some rumbling out the word ‘Agua Agua Agua’. Despite the sense of openness and freedom that being on the seashore gives, they were like hamsters in a cage going round and round forever circling the people relaxing on the beach. The sheer industriousness of the vendors and the fact that this entire class of people’s existence depended on serving the day tippers to the beach made a deep impact on me.
I noticed the vendors leaving footprints, some heavy and deep, some shallow; many were clear and defined on the wet sand and some abstract forms with prints merging with each other on the dry hot sand. Footprints proved to be individualistic with the fine reproduction on plaster but were also universal in their visual language, enough to allow the viewer access to the work.
The footprints have been cast with 75 kgs of plaster mixed in seawater. They have been cast in situ on the beach. Each of the 250 casts has been made individually over 13 days and more than 120 hours. About 170 casts that survived have been washed and cleaned and set in a circular clocklike installation on a black acrylic sheet. The pattern hints at the encircling pattern of the movement of the vendors with the tourists at the centre. The black acrylic alludes to the low status and colour of the majority of the vendors and rubbish pickers.