Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 : Srinagar Biennale

The Srinagar Biennale Pavilion

Art has a unique way of tying up diversities in unprecedented and unexpected ways. A Srinagar Biennale pavilion is part of the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale. It is significant as it tells the story of the misery and the strife of the people of Kashmir thousands of miles away, from the exhibit in Mattancherry, Kochi at the TKM Warehouse.

It is one of the infra-projects, with this segment being curated by artist Veer Munshi. The project focuses on the pain and sorrow of diaspora, the pain to flee their land and settle elsewhere as refugees. Featuring 14 artists from both the religious faiths that have been affected by the conflict that flared up in 1989 in Kashmir.

The central work of the project features a structure shaped like a Sufi dargah, a mausoleum. According to Munshi, the nurturing structure borrows elements from Kashmiri architecture, reinforced by secular values. “Sufi shrines are considered a common place where all could go and pray,” he notes. The idea is to showcase how spaces like these have got marginalised. The inside of the shrine features several baby coffins with papier-mâché bones and skulls. Munshi’s installation is surrounded by the works of other artists.

The participating artists, besides Munshi, are Altaf Qadri, Ehtisham Azhar, Gargi Raina, Hina Aarif, Inder Salim, Khytul Abyad, Maumoon Ahmad, Mujtaba Rizvi, Neeraj Bakshi, Rajendar Tiku, Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Sauqib Bhatt and Showkat Nanda. The art comes in the form of collaborative performances, installations, paintings, photographs, papier-mache works and mix media.

Overall, Srinagar Biennale here documents the migration and alienation faced by the Kashmiris. “Most Kashmiri artists have been in and out of the Valley since the 1990s,” says Munshi, . “While some belonging to the minority Hindu community fled as part of mass exodus, the others — mostly Muslim — stayed back. Both have suffered in these shrinking cultural spaces.” He feels strongly about representation through art, and embracing the community and not further abandoning one’s own precious heritage.

The Srinagar Biennale was an important section of Anita Dube’s personal curatorial vision. The Kochi Biennale which focuses on the marginalised communities nationally and internationally, through several works.

Munshi is an alumnus of MS University in Baroda, he works in Delhi.


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