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Partition and Migration

Silent Waters: The Uncounted

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This installation is an anti-memorial that acknowledges and memorializes the biggest migration in the history of the world – the population exchange of the Partition of India in 1947. Over 20 million people were dislocated across the new borders, and the most violent communal riots erupted and over 2 million people died in the Partition riots.

This anti-memorial is a site-specific installation comprised of 101 larger-than-life-scale ceramic feet glazed black inside and out. The feet are filled with salt water which adds a durational element to the installation. The water often leaks out of the ceramic feet onto the gallery floor, and the water also evaporates over the course of the exhibition, leaving behind a crystalline residue of the salt inside and outside the feet.

I believe that representations of violence are difficult and problematic to say the least. Therefore, I create anti-memorials that are multiplicitous, fragmented, temporary and peripatetic to commemorate such abject issues. In this anti-memorial, the feet filled with water serve as a surrogate for the absent defiled bodies.

Water has a ritualistic and ceremonial role in the funerary rites of Hindu, Muslim, Bengali, and Sikh communities. Therefore, in this installation, I gesture towards the presence and role of water with a minimalist sound installation that comprises of the sounds of rain, running feet, and a body falling into water, playing in a loop.

Why 101 feet? In India, it is considered auspicious to make offerings of money in the amounts of 11, 21, 51, 101, 501 and so on in temples. Therefore, 101 feet is a symbolic number to make a memorial offering to the men and women who were brutalized in the Partition riots.

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Silent Waters: The Uncounted

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The Partition of India in 1947 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, were extremely bloody and ethnic violence was perpetrated at an unprecedented scale. These traumatic geopolitical events have shaped the national and individual psyche of  South Asia.

Over 20 million people were displaced in the Partition of India in 1947 (Wikipedia 2021), and over 30 million were displaced in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 (Wikipedia 2021). The trauma that this displaced population suffered has been appropriated by state actors to create a “victim nationalism” for the purpose of propagandist nation building, but the actual victims have not been memorialized in a meaningful way.

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