This month i exhibited at Amdavadi ni Gufa, a gallery built by india’s eminent artist MF Husain in Ahmedabad but has been vandalised thrice since its start. First in 1996 when Husains tapestries and paintings of godesses were destroyed by the Bajrang Dal an extremist religious faction which got upset that a Muslim artist painted Hindu deities. Last attack was in 2013 when works of Pakistani artists were put on display and the responsibility was taken by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which proudly circulated videos of the destruction of artworks. i chose to exhibit my text installation in Urdu in this space as an expression of cultural plurality and multi layered beauty of india here and my burnt books to remind people of the attacks on freedom of expression, which are continuing, in fact, escalating, today.
i have been burning text and books since 2002, the year of a massive riot/genocide in Gujarat where thousands of muslims were killed while the administration and the state completely broke down, unable to end the massacre. the burning started as part of my art practice to symbolise the destruction of humanism and the law, the remnants of text are then incorporated in my paintings and installations.
this show also has urdu text from modern feminist writing in urdu, the first publication of which was titled Angarey or sparks implying change. it was edited by Sajjad Zahir who led the progressive writers movement in india and disturbed the readers so much that the British govt banned it! i have screen printed some extracts from the stories on sarees and other garments worn by women like ghararas to use it as metaphor for bodies and the feminine power.
This show also has my reading of three of my poems which forms a contemporary overlay to the original text source of Angarey a pre independence publication) it’s a 6 minute video titled Rehearsal for a Poem, 2014 which was screened at the Kochi Biennale with performance videos. As an artist the most exciting aspect of this show was the accessibility of this space to the young since its situated on the CEPT campus, next door to the School of Architecture, NIFT and NID. The incessant flow of teachers,students,textile designers,weavers,writers is imperative for transmission of artistic innovations and ideas which one can grasp only through a real life encounter with artworks