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Partition and Communal Riots

Memory Leaks: Drips and Traces

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BRIEF project statement

This anti-memorial explores the periodic eruptions of communal riots that seem to happen with uncanny regularity in India since 1947. The installation is comprised of ritual copper vessels used in Hindu temples for cleansing through water and fire. Dharapatras, which are copper pots with a spouted bottom, are used in Hindu temples to drip water or milk on deities. Havans are copper containers used in Hindu temples to light the holy fire and make offerings to the fire. Seventeen dharapatras have been etched with details of as many communal riots. They are presented as a durational installation with water dripping out of the bottom of the vessels into seventeen havans.

Each of the havans contain partially burnt books written in Urdu, the language spoken by Muslims in India and Pakistan. Organized pogroms targeting Muslims are hailed as “cleansing” the land of the impure Muslims by the Hindu right. Frequently, the Muslims are killed and burnt, and their houses and shops razed to the ground. The smoldering books are a metaphor for the decimation of Islamic culture in these acts of arson. Chillingly reminiscent of the Partition riots, the communal violence of 1947 keeps leaking into the present through these riots.

I invite viewers to participate and memorialize the victims of these communal riots by pouring water into the dharapatras to continuously animate these memory leaks. I am appropriating the dharapatras and havans as objects loaded with ritual significance and reinscribing them as containers of history that tenaciously hold and incessantly leak the counter-memories of communal violence into the present day.

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