Katharina Koppenwallner

I offer this horse to you
01.09.2018 – 07.10.2018


Katharina Koppenwallner, please tell us something about the horse: where did you get these remarkable creatures?
Well, first of all, I didn’t make them, they were made by the pottery master from Poshina. Large herds of them stand about in the landscape in northern Gujarat, slowly rotting. They are votive horses of the Adivasi, the local ethnic group. Large horse = big wish and big procession. Small horse = small wish and small procession.
Small wishes are placed with the horse, large ones often only after they were fulfilled.

You said they quietly rot. So is it okay if they break?

After they have served their purpose, it’s no problem if they break.

Without wanting to sound greedy: could I use my horse daily for wish-fulfilment?
One horse stands for one wish to the local deity Bakhar Bhavsingh. You wouldn’t want to waste this super opportunity on something banal like a parking space, would you? That would be too much effort and too little humility. The god would definitely notice that, even if he is very far away.
And what are the common and appropriate wishes?
The usual: children, dough, no illness.
What’s so interesting about these animals is their ambiguity. On the one hand, they could also be lamas, and on the other hand I’m not sure whether to find them amusing, beautiful, or obscene. Imagine I would want to order a horse by phone – how would you describe it to me?

The horse has very short legs and a very long neck. It also has very long ears pointing up into the air. Its mouth is wide open, circular, as it its anus.

Thanks, that sounds very enticing. Can you explain the prominent orifices? Do you speak your wish into them? And if so, into the front or the back?

I don’t think the wish has to be said directly into it. First of all, by the purchase the horse’s interest in the wish is piqued, and afterwards it can be charged with the wish in a ceremony.
The back hole is important for the potter as he works on the horse. Just as when you stuff a goose at Christmas, his hand works from behind into the cavity. The round mouth is purely a design decision. The wish can be sent from there in the direction of the god, or the god can suck it from there with his big ears, if indeed he has any.

Is the horse a local phenomenon, or is it known throughout India?

Terracotta horses as votive figures exist throughout India. But as far as I know, there are not many of these large animal fields, where they can spend their retirement years together after the wishes have been fulfilled. The herd in Gujarat that is also pictured on the invitation is said to be the largest assembly of terracotta figures after the terracotta army in China.

Let’s talk about their creator, the potter.

The potter is called Babu Bhai Prajapati. And really, this is his exhibition, even though he doesn’t see himself as an artist, but rather as a craftsman who produces articles of daily use. He doesn’t produce anything but these horses, and from time to time a different animal figure. There is very good clay in northern Gujarat, that’s why the potter can make the body of the animals there at the potter’s wheel. There are also votive animals made of clay in southern Gujarat, but the clay there is such inferior quality that it can’t be thrown, it needs to be kneaded by hand. That’s why the figures look like archaeological discoveries from the early Neolithic age.

Apart from the good clay, what else are the highlights of the federal state of Gujarat, and what appealed to you there?

Gujarat has an incredible diversity of ethnic textiles and cultures, it’s India’s rich showcase state, and there are loads of decaying Maharajah palaces that are ideal for spending the night. And you meet neither embarrassing hippies nor package holiday tourists there. In contrast to Rajasthan, you really can’t speak of a tourist thunderstorm there.

You’ve discovered and imported these horses, and sold some of them already. Can you report on any fulfilled wishes?

Yes! A friend of mine as a kind of anteater from the potter in Poshina; his girlfriend bought it from me. Every morning, he communicates with this animal, and he is absolutely convinced that he owes the success of his film to this. If the faith is right, the god is very close. Only then can he help.

Katharina Koppenwallner, thank you very much for this interview.

Interview: Jackie Thomae

Translation: Wilhelm Werthern