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event • Lectures

Water Stories: River Goddesses, Ancestral Rites, and Climate Crisis Opening Event

  • Monday, September 18, 2023
    4 PM ET
  • Online on Zoom
Water Stories: Triveni Sangam, Allahabad (Prayagraj), India, Jan 3, 2023. Digital Image by Jinah Kim and Cara Buzzell.

In this opening discussion for the exhibition, Water Stories: River Goddesses, Ancestral Rites, and Climate Crisis, the exhibition curator and faculty director Jinah Kim will engage in conversation with the art historian Yukio Lippit and Radcliffe’s curator of exhibitions, Meg Rotzel.

Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s exhibition, Water Stories: River Goddesses, Ancestral Rites, and Climate Crisis (on view September 18–December 16, 2023), presents artworks that tell alternative stories of water experiences in the context of climate change. They treat water not as a commodity to be exploited but as a cyclical, life-giving, life-dissolving, and inert but innately alive spiritual force—a view widely shared among Indigenous communities, especially in the Global South. The exhibition juxtaposes older, traditional paintings depicting myths with works by contemporary artists (including Atul Bhalla, Alia Farid, and Evelyn Rydz) that evoke various aesthetic experiences of water in the age of climate crisis. Water Stories encourages viewers to appreciate the multivalent meaning of water and to contemplate their own relationship with it.

See companion website for the exhibition.

Harvard Radcliffe Institute gratefully acknowledges the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Endowment Fund for the Arts, which is supporting this exhibition.

We plan to post the recording on our website one week after the event.


Jinah Kim is the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at Harvard Radcliffe Institute and George P. Bickford Professor of Indian and South Asian Art and professor of South Asian Studies in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Kim’s research and teaching explore a range of topics with special interests in intertextuality of text-image relationship, art and politics, female representations and patronage, issues regarding reappropriation of sacred objects, and post-colonial discourse in the field of South and Southeast Asian Art. In addition to her academic research, she directs a digital humanities project on color and pigments in painting, "Mapping Color in History," which serves as a knowledge common for conservation specialists and anyone interested in material aspects of color, with a searchable, open database for historical research on pigments.

Yukio Lippit is the Jeffrey T. Chambers and Andrea Okamura Professor of the History of Art and Architecture in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Lippit’s interests center around Japanese painting of the medieval (1200–1600) and early modern eras (1600–1868), as well as the history of Japanese architecture. His book Painting of the Realm: The Kano House of Painters in Seventeenth-Century Japan (2012) was awarded the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award by the College Art Association and the John Whitney Hall Book Prize by the Association of Asian Studies. The author of seven other books, his current project focuses on medieval ink painting and the Shōsōin Treasury. Lippit is a former Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

Meg Rotzel is curator of exhibitions at Harvard Radcliffe Institute. In this role, Rotzel curates and presents contemporary art exhibitions as well as exhibitions that draw from the collections of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. At Radcliffe, she has organized exhibitions featuring artists such as Jennifer Bornstein, A.K. Burns, E. J. Hill, Tomashi Jackson, Wendy Jacob, Lamia Joreige, Bouchra Khalili, Gala Porras Kim, Mary Lum, Marilyn Pappas, Xaviera Simmons, Jill Slosburg-Ackerman, TeamLab, Clarissa Tossin, and Matika Wilbur.

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