Commissioned by the Kathmandu Triennale 2077, After Yellow is a garden of Oriental Mustard (Tori “टोरी” / Too “टूउ”), flowering during the Triennale and sown as to evoke the shape of a traditional wooden mustard mill from nearby Khokana, famed for its centuries old tradition of mustard cultivation and milling of prized mustard oil supplied to Kathmandu and beyond.
Originating in the foothills of the Himalaya, Oriental Mustard cultivation has spread to many parts of the globe including Europe and North America. Its culinary and medicinal use is documented in Sanskrit texts from as early as 5000 years ago and for a long time mustard oil was the only cooking oil used locally. Today both the physical and intangible heritage of indigenous mustard oil expelling technology and the pioneering cooperative mill system that evolved over 600 years ago are threatened by new technologies and global market competition which makes local production unviable. Indeed, the cultivation of mustard itself is slowly disappearing as Kokhana, in the Lalitpur district, is being engulfed by the rapid urbanization of the Kathmandu Valley. The work also draws attention to local resistance against a planned highway project that would destroy many of the mustard fields. After the exhibition the seeds will be collected and taken to Khokana to be milled into oil at the last traditionally operating mechanical mill.
Referencing land art and the colour fields from the history of monochrome painting – in particular Rodchenko’s Pure Yellow Colour from 1921 – this work is an homage to Indigenous technology and a reminder of cooperative economic models on the brink of being forgotten.