Anousha Payne
Surahonne (a flowering mask), 2021

The work

Surahonne (a flowering mask) is from a body of work by Payne that draws upon A Flowering Tree, a folktale told by women in the Kannada-speaking areas of south India.

Payne explains the story: “A Flowering Tree is the story of a woman who repeatedly transforms into a tree. Initially, she transforms to produce flowers to sell to make money for her mother. Later, she meets a prince who watches her make the transformation, and is enthralled by her power to do this. He demands that she perform for him daily, with little regard for her wellbeing. Her sister in-law also demands that she transforms for her friends to pluck flowers. The sister-in-law and her friends don’t respect the process; they take little care of her and leave her with broken twigs… She becomes stuck; a mere thing, a torso. The story goes on… eventually her heartbroken husband is reunited with her, and is full of remorse. He lovingly fixes her twigs and helps her transform back to her full human self.”

Payne imagines the mask she has made as returning agency and autonomy to the protagonist of the story so she can choose as and when she wishes to transform.

A version of the story is recorded in A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India by Indian folklorist A .K. Ramanujan