Thursday, August 16, 2012

The visual rendering of an artist’s nostalgic diary

  • Artist Paula Sengupta’s family migrated to West Bengal India in 1947 against the blood-filled backdrop of Partition, India and Pakistan were born as two separate nations. Consequently, a third nation was born after yet another battle of liberation – Bangladesh, in 1971.
  • The artist recounts: “My parents (and I realized mine) ancestral homes lie in what is today Bangladesh - my father's in the village of Batisha, perilously close to the border with the Indian state of Tripura; my mother's in the village of Kalia, a small distance from the Benapole border with Kolkata. Kalia appeared to still be a predominantly Hindu village.
  • "The ruins of many grand homes still remain as testimony to the glory that the village had once seen. The house in Kalia was left to the care of an old family retainer at the time of Partition. For three consecutive years after that, some members of the family continued to return annually for the Durga Puja. It was finally abandoned when the village Muslims broke in and disrupted the ceremonies. The family was allowed to bring nothing from the homestead.
  • “In January 2008, then in my fortieth year, I crossed the border to Bangladesh for the first time. I experienced an odd sense of alienation and belonging all at once, and an irrepressible desire to return. I returned in June the same year, traversing this incredibly beautiful and troubled nation from Chittagong to Benapole, as the summer turned to monsoon and the magnificent rivers rose in spate even as I crossed them.”
  • Her ‘Rivers of Blood’ at Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road was the visual rendering of a diary that the artist wrote documenting her travels through Bangladesh - the story of countless families displaced by the Partition, perhaps the single most significant event in the history of the Indian Subcontinent. To render this diary, she appropriated the nakshi kantha, a quilting tradition from Bangladesh. She initially simulated the style in the drawing and etching mediums, but later turned to embroidering on found Colonial textiles.

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