olivia d’cruz

There’s a community of estuarine, fresh water fishermen in Goa, India, who live in entangled existence with the Mugger crocodile, an endangered species. The fishermen believe that the crocodile plays an important role in maintaining the balance of biodiversity. Each year at the first new moon the community performs a ritual, Mannge Thapnee, where they build a relic of the crocodile, anoint it with vermilion and pray to it, in thanks for looking after the community. 

The ritual and the respect toward the crocodile that comes with it, has proved to help in the conservation of the species, the fishermen venerate the crocodile from a distance, and the crocs continue to sunbathe. The community is not a perfect one, they are especially destructive towards the otter population in the area- the otters being their food source rivals, and their settlements often threaten the mangrove forests, but their exchange is an alternative to the general hierarchy of the fishing industry, and should be recorded and protected as an ecological practice.

My graduation film ‘Mannge Thapnee: A Prayer for the Crocodile’ is an attempt at describing the ritual from a post-apocalyptic future, where ‘earthly revival’ is anticipated by a mechanical creature, who is responsible for looking after a collection of seeds and an archive of footage of a time when mangroves grew thick. The creature finds footage of the crocodile ritual and attempts to recreate it, leading to the germination of the seeds. The two-channel film uses a combination of live action and stop-motion animation, and is desplayed within an installation of a mangrove forest.

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