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Bangladesh Liberation War and Mass Graves

This Handful of Dust: Bones, Stones, and Guns

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brief project statement

In a recent artist residency in Dhaka, I had the opportunity to visit a memorial that had been built on the site of a mass grave from the 1971 Liberation War. So far, over 5000 such mass graves have been discovered all over Bangladesh. They are usually found in the process of digging up the earth for building foundations of new buildings. The 1971 Liberation War Museum has been storing all the bones that have been unearthed in these mass graves and displays a small portion of this macabre collection in vitrines.  While deeply affected, I figured there was no way for me to work with this material artistically, because some moments from history are simply meant to be felt, not to be aestheticized.

On a trip to Ireland, a country with a deep connection to India because of the shared histories of colonial and ethnic trauma, partition, and alliances of mutual support, I found myself very intrigued by the stone fences all over Ireland, and the stones in the Burren. The history of land ownership in Ireland and the hard struggle of the Irish people for their independence also struck a chord. I started drawing these stones, and in the process of drawing which is a very immediate and intuitive medium for me, the stones started turning into bones. The more I drew, the more bones came out on the paper, and I realized that the intense experience of the mass graves that I had buried in my sub-conscious in Dhaka was coming out through the drawings of the stones.

This anti-memorial attempts to process these difficult narratives by creating a transcultural bridge of memories and histories. The title "This Handful of Dust" is inspired by a collection of poems by Bangladeshi poet, Feroze Ahmed-ud-Din.

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