Thirteen exhibitions from South Asia and Iran explore pressing issues of the times

Pallavi Chattopadhyay
Cause and Effect

Shadman Shahid’s No Quarter

The ongoing five-day event “the earth is still going around the sun” at Delhi’s India International Centre is a treat for the senses. Not only because it brings together 13 exhibitions by curators from Iran, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, it also strives to present the vast diversity of curatorial practice in the region and its myriad possibilities by touching upon pressing issues such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), how social media is used for political advertising, history of untouchability, caste system and more. We list some of the top picks from the exhibition:

The Shape of Water

The exhibition ‘1927– The Mahad Satyagraha: Erasure as a form of assertion’, curated by Rumi Samadhan, places the Mahad Satyagraha at the centre of most works on display. These pieces comment on the practice of untouchability. Visual artist Rajyashri Goody from Pune recalls this pivotal moment in Indian history when thousands of Dalits, led by BR Ambedkar, walked up to the Chavdar water tank in Mahad, Maharashtra, on March 20, 1927, and drank water, despite being barred for years from doing so, for being “impure”. The non-violent resistance drew flak from the higher castes of Hindus, who carried a purification ceremony for the tank, by dipping 108 pots of panchagavya — a concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee — in their attempt to make it pure again. With her Dalit roots as driving force, Goody captures the ritual in her photographic print What is The Caste Of Water, where she has poured panchagavya into 108 glasses to stress on the erasure of untouchability.

Cause and Effect

Rajyashri Goody’s What is the Caste of Water

Long Way Home

How artists are working with technology has given birth to the exhibition ‘Real Time Tactics’. Artist Karthik KG puts the spotlight on digital activism in Out of State, a work that can be seen on a tablet, where he retweets hashtags relating to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAA, among others. The installation, Seasons of Persuasion, put together by Nayantara Ranganathan and Manuel Beltran, presents a different visualisation of the political data campaign, where a circle of innumerable bubbles in varying colours on four different screens is displayed to represent each second of political advertising for each day on social media. A cluster of blue circles appear to be indicative of Donald Trump, and those in saffron, perhaps, refer to the BJP.

Road to Equality

Tehran-born photographer Ebrahim Noroozi’s photograph, Death Observers, is a gripping portrait of people who had come to watch the public hanging of two convicts in Iran, which he describes as having “the second highest rate of execution” following China. Laurence Rasti’s photograph series, ‘There Are No Homosexuals in Iran’, with two men neatly dressed in their crisp grey suits, appears to silently question a statement that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had once made at Columbia University: “In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like in your country”. To this day, homosexuality remains punishable by death in Iran.

Home as Prison

Describing how 87 per cent women in Bangladesh are victims of domestic violence and who continue to stay in abusive marriages, Dhaka-born Bangladeshi photographer Shadman Shahid, through his docu-fiction, No Quarter, tells the story of one such couple, Alo and Sagor. He covers the couple’s faces in yellow colour and patterns in photos that appear handpicked from any family album. He tells how the couple has been in an abusive relationship for over 20 years.

The exhibition is on at IIC, Max Mueller Marg, till December 20