Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Speak Space: Impact of a chanced encounter

Sonatina Mendes and I made a short trip to Bombay with our artist friend Karishma Dsouza, to see an exhibition of contemporary art from Africa at the Sakshi Gallery.

The migration of African people to India dates back to the 7th century C.E, when the first Siddis arrived on the port of Bharuch in Gujarat. Although they adopted the language and culture of the surroundings, they retained certain aspects of their African cultural heritage, that are seen even today in their dance and drumming performances.

The exhibition —"Chance Encounters" at Sakshi gallery can be seen as a continuation of the cultural dialogue that can be traced from centuries ago, between Africa and India. Curated by Bisi Silva, the director and founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, this exhibition brings together 7 artists from different parts of Africa, each using a medium that is entirely different from the others and presenting to the Indian audience a powerful expression of their cultural identity. Okhai Ojeikere, Miriam Mihindou and Uche Iroha use photography to present powerful and evocative images that inquire into African identity and socio-political issues via the performed and the real scenarios. El Anatsui and Nnenna Okore chose objects and materials from their everyday existence to create sculptural installations, which on the one hand speak of the impact of consumerism and on the other hand make references to their own cultural traditions like weaving. Safaa Erruas' monochromatic line drawings and installations exemplify a feminine sensibility and investigate complex feelings of pain and pleasure in a minimalistic language. Berry Bickle uses documentation and personal records as a starting point in her work, which question social history and colonization.

Although the works from this exhibition can be viewed on the gallery's website, I do believe that, like most exhibitions, this too demands a physical tour around the gallery!

Malavika Rajnarayan

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