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Hidden Kingdom is an illustrated book of ‘fantastical’ plants native to the Western Ghats—from carnivores and parasites to flowers that stink of rotting flesh. It contains botanical trivia, ecological insights and crafty wordplay set to rhyme, and is intended for a broad age group and audience. It was created by Nirupa Rao (illustrator), Suniti Rao (writer), Siddarth Machado (botanical researcher) and Prasenjeet Yadav (photographer), with the help of a National Geographic grant.
Nirupa and Suniti will speak about the book’s creative process – artistic and writing processes, the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration and research-based content, including the motivation for the book which was the notion that a generation disconnected from nature might not strive to save it. Their desire to create a fun yet educative book truly rooted in the Indian landscape fueled by their field expeditions in search of the featured plants, with photographs for study, reference, and for their website www.hiddenkingdom.in
The session will be moderated by Vasundhara Das.
Suniti will also read excerpts from the book.
The event will be accompanied by an exhibit of original paintings.
Nirupa’s work is inspired by regular field visits into the wild, and informed by close collaborationwith natural scientists to achieve accuracy. A National Geographic Young Explorer, she received a grant to create her book Hidden Kingdom—Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats. She has also published Pillars of Life—Magnificent Trees of the Western Ghats (2018), a debut project in collaboration with naturalists Divya Mudappa and TR Shankar Raman of the Nature Conservation Foundation.
She illustrated the cover of Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel, Gun Island, and re-jacketed four of his older novels for Penguin-Random House. In 2019, she participated in a Plant Humanities program at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Centre. She has also been named an INK Fellow, one to ‘watch out for’ in Forbes India’s annual 30 Under 30 issue, and one of Harper’s Bazaar India’s ‘Indian Women to be Proud Of’
Suniti is Brand Director at strategic and creative agency, Border&Fall, and writer for its in-house publication.
Siddarth is currently pursuing his PhD in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida.
Prasenjeet is a molecular ecologist turned photographer and a National Geographic Explorer. He is represented by National Geographic Creative and is currently working in Central Asia’s high mountains and the Western Ghats of India.
Vasundhara Das has trained in Hindustani classical music from an early age, has made her mark with numerous songs for Indian films. She has worked with composers such as A. R. Rahman, Vishal Shekhar and Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy to name a few.
She has also been involved in several independent projects such as Channel V Jammin’, BBC’s HIV awareness anthem, Mission Ustaad, Arya, Global Rhythms and Nylon Soundz.
Vasundhara’s current focus is on music composition at her Bangalore based studio called THE ACTIVE, where she creates original sound tracks for films in different languages and works on independent music projects. Vasundhara also performs extensively on stage, in solo appearances as well as along with her band.
Her latest musical outing as a singer and composer is a Sufi poetry project inspired by the work of Shah Hussain, in which she collaborates with Mir Mukhtiyar Ali, Roberto Narain and other talented musicians from across the country. This project was premiered at the prestigious INK Conference in association with TED on a live web cast across the world.
As a speaker, she has spoken at conferences like INK Talks in association with TED, Confederation of Indian Industries’ Conference for Women Entrepreneurs, TEDx NMAMIT, TEDx IIT Kanpur and The Mentor Conclave.
As an entrepreneur, Vasundhara, along with partner Roberto Narain, are the pioneers of the drum circle movement in India and run DRUMJAM, a company that uses the medium of music and rhythm for corporate training, team building and community building at schools and colleges. Drumjam has the largest inventory of drums and percussion instruments in Asia at 20,000 instruments and has worked with leaders of industries across all sectors and has made approximately half a million people experience music through group drumming