South Asian group show brings post-partition politics to Cambridge

One of the portraits from Sohrab Huras Snow series (2014-ongoing) taken during winter in Kashmir © Sohrab Hura

Motivated by todays atmosphere of exacerbated nationalism in Southern Asia, 11 artists will present works that question borders and address issues of displacement and migration in Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan at Kettles Yard, Cambridge.

The exhibition of South Asian artists was commissioned at the beginning of the European migrant crisis in 2015 and opens “at a time when Britain is being radically reconceived”, says its curator Devika Singh. “It seems that the exclusionary lines drawn in South Asia are not that different from those being drawn here in the UK and Europe,” Singh adds.

Some of the works in the show play with the logic behind national identity, such as Iftikhar and Elizabeth Dadis large neon sculptures based on the national flowers of Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan. These pieces broach the strangeness of exclusive claims to species of flora that grow on either side of a border line. Others works, such as a series of new abstract paintings by Desmond Lazaro, are inspired by the intimate histories bound up in great displacements. Lazaro produced the paintings during a residency in Cambridge, basing them on individual stories and objects from immigrants who have moved to the area.

Padma, Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi (2014) Courtesy the artists

The show also features attempts at fostering international co-operation through art, such as a 2002 poster by Shilpa Gupta, first conceived during an artistic exchange programme between India and Pakistan. The two neighbouring countries longstanding tensions escalated in February this year following a suicide bombing at the national border by a Pakistan-based terrorist group that provoked deadly airstrikes on both sides.

At the centre of this historic conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations lies Kashmir, the heavily militarised Himalayan region in which both countries claim territory. Addressing this issue, Sohrab Huras Snow, an ongoing series started in 2014, depicts the progression of winter in the Kashmir valley using subtle motifs such as eyes to refer to the blinding of civilians by the police using pellet guns.

“I am keen to state that mine is not a Kashmiri voice, it is an Indians—an important distinction to make especially in light of recent events,” says Hura, referring to the ruling made by the Indian government in August to strip the state of Kashmir of its semi-autonomy. Imposed a day before thousands of troops descended into the region and effected a state-wide lockdown on movement and communication, now in its fourth month, the ruling has drawn widespread criticism with vocal opposition from Pakistans prime minister Imran Khan.

As tensions remain high and political leaders continue to exchange hostile words, it is doubtful a show of this nature could take place in either country today. “While collaborative shows like this do exist, they remain infrequent and are faced with many logistical complications,” Singh says. “Most importantly, it is still very difficult for artists to travel to and from either country.”

Staging this show in the UK not only affords Singh the logistical ease of intra-national collaboration but also provides Homelands with an important context for viewers to contemplate. Although the exhibitions works were not necessarily created with a British audRead More – Source