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  • Writer's picturekaydee777

A sparkling serpent

Way back in winter when it was comfortable to do things outside in the sunshine, I occupied some pleasant hours making a snake on a piece of old construction wood gleaned from my woodpile.

I thought I would attach it to a post at the driveway entrance in the front.

Not only does it invoke a Diamondback rattlesnake but it sparkles with shisha - the little mirrors used in abhala bharat - Indian mirrorwork embroidery.

A tin full of these sparkly pieces of hand cut mirror returned with me from Rajasthan. They have been traveling with me for the three decades since.

Though I have used a few of them teaching myself the embroidery techniques, it is time to seriously address my hoard of material treasures acquired in a lifetime of postponing the vision.

A kurta decorated with one of my first attempts at Shisha embroidery was worn while volunteering at an academic research library in the Punjab.


While art historians have various explainations for the origins of use of these mirrors, amongst them a poor person’s version of jewel encrusted clothing, I was told a different story by the people I lived with during my time in Rajasthan, where I even found them used in wall art.


The story goes that the mirrors are protective devices. Evil spirits are repelled by the ugliness they see reflecting back at them and they flee. This has interesting echoes of Chinese Feng Shui where one finds elaborate rules for use of mirrors to move chi (energy) around spaces.

Outsider artist Helen Martins also used mirrors, desert light and glass in her visionary art installation The Owl House, in Nieu Bethesda, South Africa.

My Delhi Diamondback currently resides in the newly repainted southeast bedroom.

Jury is still out on whether I’m ready to install a sparkling serpent at the front entrance to the Shala.


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