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Deeply disturbed by the news of models in her home country, Iran, being arrested last year, for posting pictures of themselves on social networking sites without headscarves, Iranian artist Neda Tavallaee created a series of works, titled About Havva. One of the models is the central character, posing with a chador, while looking up at the sky, sitting with her hands wrapped around her or lying down, in the eight cyanotypes on display at Bikaner House in Delhi. The pages of the historical Shahnameh, a book of stories on heroes and patriots, runs in the background, beneath images of the “damsel in distress”, who has been left to fight alone for justice.
The works of Teheran-based Tavallaee, 44, are part of the exhibition “Dissensus”, that also features five other artists who respond to conflict and political turmoil in their regions. They come from Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India and have been a witness to an unfolding saga of political and identity crisis.
Tavallaee says, “I have used the Shahnameh as a symbol of men being dominant in society. The story that I talk about is that of a girl in the images, whose life is opposite to that of the men. I want to amplify the story of the woman by putting her in the traditional Persian miniature structure and making her bold.”
Srinagar-born Veer Munshi has reflected on war, its causes and the relationship between humans and conflicts. He narrows down the focus to human loss. In the installation, Relics from Lost Paradise, open caskets lie on the ground filled with fake bones that have been decorated with the Kashmir papier- mâché created by local craftsmen as an ode to martyrs and their rich heritage.
Quotes on death by eminent personalities, such as Albert Einstein, Plato and Leonardo Da Vinci, decorate the casket. The 60-year-old Delhi-based artist says, “One can easily relate to the theme through the recent attacks on the pilgrims of the Amarnath yatra.” Lahore-based Waseem Ahmed’s untitled works are a reflection of his visits to Lebanon and the refugee camps of Berlin, where he witnessed a plethora of Syrian refugees. The top of one canvas is covered in gold leaf, with the outline of a prosperous city to depict a golden era that the citizens once lived in. A visual journey downwards reveals how their world turned upside Unidentified silhouettes of refugees appear walking in a cracked deserted landscape that is splattered with blood, pain and bullet shots.
“It makes you wonder what is their fault. It is mostly the lower- and the middle-class that is affected, while nothing happens to the upper-class and politicians. These refugees have no identity in the new land because nobody knows them. The moment they leave their country, their identity and sense of belonging gets lost,” says the 42-year-old artist.