1_Textile Art

Omphalos of Many

«Omphalos of Many» – India, 2024

“Omphalos” means navel in Greek. The navel is a symbol of birth and life; the anchor, our centre point. In ancient Greece there was a legend that Zeus sent out two eagles. Their meeting point was to be the centre of the world. The eagles eventually met in Delphi, where one of the most famous oracles of antiquity shared her wisdom. Such ‘centres’ can be found in many cultures and spiritual traditions. Mount Kailash for Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Taoism, for example, or Jerusalem for Christians, Jews and Muslims, mark important places where earth and heaven meet. The historian Mircea Eliade coined the term Axis Mundi – the axis of the world – to underline the important characteristic of these places. They are gateways, access points to special wisdom and blessings, somewhat analogous to the life-giving function of the original human navel while we are in the womb.

“Omphalos of Many” suggests that our common anchor may not be in a particular place, but in a way of being. It is created through connection and dialogue. The focus of a centre emerges through deep listening and the release of what we have learned. The human navel is a scar that tells of our primal connection to our mother. Not only did we receive nourishing blood, but nutrient-depleted blood was also pumped out. “Omphalos of Many seeks to expand from a human-centred perspective by inviting nature to become part of the artwork.

The textile piece is an offering to the earth. It has been deliberately placed on the ground to be overgrown by plants and taken over by animals. Looking inside you will discover plants that have been selected for their ability to balance and centre the human mind and body: Tulsi, the holy basil, for example, in the centre, the Sindoor and many other seeds planted below. Advice for this selection came from the Ayurvedic medic Mr Ramlotan Kushwaha, as well as from Mr Babulal Dahiya’s seed bank of rare varieties, who live in villages near Art Ichol.

Around the textile piece, looking outwards, you will discover four seats that point in the direction of where some cultures and sciences have placed their centres of the world: Mount Kailash, Greenwich in the United Kingdom, Jerusalem and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. The Sierra de Santa Marta mountain range in Colombia in the cosmovision of the indigenous peoples of the region; the Kogi and Arhuaco, to name a few, is specifically called “the heart of the world”.

The way we organize our geography influences our worldview and how we understand others. What is called East and West, for example, has historical roots. It was only in 1884 that 25 countries agreed that the prime meridian should pass through Greenwich /UK, dividing the earth into an eastern and western hemisphere and declaring where universal time was referenced. The decision has eventually expanded from being a mere navigation tool to becoming part of a cultural identity.

Finally, in trying to anchor our centre in dialogue and connection, a slightly broader understanding of geography might be helpful. Perhaps one that is not just about reaching your geographical destination, but also about navigating the map of life as a whole. A closer look at the earth can provide good inspiration.