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Eight artists from the North East come together to shed light on the issues pertinent to borders and their land

Reminding the viewer of the famous yesteryear black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons are Shillong-based artist Treibor Mawlong’s woodcuts, Hills & Tales, where nine panels question the notion of home.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay |
Updated: August 8, 2019 9:03:01 am
Obsessed of Intersection by Victor Hazra

Having been an eye witness to the 2008 Agartala serial blasts, the memories of the horrific incident and of bleeding victims being rushed to hospitals, left artist Victor Hazra from Tripura filled with dread and fear. Soon after, he decided to embark on a year-long project where he sourced photographs of bowl-shaped craters, caused due to bombings, from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq from Google and juxtaposed them with outlines of flowers as a sign of condolence. At Delhi’s Akar Prakar Contemporary gallery, Sepulchre, Hazra is showcasing a set of seven works where he marries glass etchings with photography to recreate broken and shattered pieces of bombed land by covering them with flowers like rose or sunflower. It is an attempt “to cover up the scars of terrorism”.

Threshold by Sisir Thapa

Now based in Delhi, Hazra, 30, is surprised upon seeing the rising concrete jungles in Gurgaon, as opposed to the scenic beauty of lush green landscapes of the North East when growing up. The work Obsessed of Intersection draws from his experiences, where he has sculpted a colourful human head, painted with grid-like buildings, using acrylics, and sporting a headgear made of iron, in the shape of a building under construction. “When we go to hilly areas, we enjoy the landscape. But I can see none of this in Delhi. All I can see through the window is concrete and it makes me claustrophobic. What is land? How do we see the land and the landscape? Its definition is changing,” says Hazra.

We see what we want to see by Wahida Ahmed

Part of the group exhibition “A-part: Stories of Lands and Lines”, which is being showcased in Delhi, Hazra’s works feature among the 10 works by eight artists hailing from the North East region, such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura. Pranamita Borgohain, the curator of the show, says, “The title of the show refers to one way of looking at the North East, as being ‘apart’ from the mainland. The North East is surrounded by the border of five countries and that leaves it with a range of other issues, unlike rest of the country. The border areas are more prone and fragile to disturbances. So it takes off from the idea of how borders and lines divide and is a broader play on land, soil, terrain, territories, while touching upon subjects of migration, identity and political upheavals.”

Reminding the viewer of the famous yesteryear black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons are Shillong-based artist Treibor Mawlong’s woodcuts, Hills & Tales, where nine panels question the notion of home. Each frame hides a story — a chicken trying to protect her babies, tourists clicking selfies with the famous living root bridges of Meghalaya, and a bulldozer excavating and removing chunks of land. He says, “This artwork speaks of the influx of illegal migrants into the hills, at a time when locals think it is their land, through a panel depicting a cluster of ants walking uphill. Tourists are leaving behind plastic footprints everywhere when they come visiting and there’s pollution and degradation. On the outside, this work looks peaceful and calm, but there’s hidden chaos.”

No hatred, no malice, this humble heart of mind, carries no prejudice… The Hindu climbs the pyre, the Muslim goes to his grave, both return to the bosom of the same earth where they lived. With these lines, Wahida Ahmed from Guwahati puts the spotlight on the 17th century sufi saint and poet Ajan Fakir, who came from Baghdad and settled in Assam’s Sibsagar district. His songs, about people from different caste, creed and religion, send out a message of harmony. They are an entry point into her tall iron frame installation titled We see what we want to see, where she has woven together the structure of the black cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca and the triratha of a temple, and covered them with black thread and the saint’s poems in terracotta.

Exploring gateways’ role in establishing and reinforcing the idea of power is Gangtok-based Sisir Thapa, who duplicates its minimised version with influences from the architecture of China and Burma in Threshold, using rusted barbed wire and tin sheet.

The exhibition is on at D 43, Defence Colony, till August 16

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