In the time of pandemic, a contemporary take on Partition

The works of five artists will mark 74 years of Partition at a 12-day exhibition to be held in Kolkata starting August 17.

The works of five artists will mark 74 years of Partition at a 12-day exhibition to be held in Kolkata starting August 17, an event that organisers say will examine the trials and tribulations of the uprooted and comprehend the trauma that has scarred successive generations.

To exhibition — Legacy of Loss: Perspective on the Partition of Bengal — is being organised by the Kolkata Partition Museum Trust and will be held at the Kolkata Creativity Centre. The participating artists include Dr. Paula Sengupta, Vinayak Bhattacharya, Debasish Mukherjee, Amritah Sen, and Dilip Mitra. The event will also include talk sessions and film screenings.

“The exhibition offers a very contemporary take on Partition, with the artists’ wonderfully diverse work responding to the event and its aftermath over seven decades. It has also, ironically, developed a deeper resonance during this pandemic. There are many aspects of what we are going through now that reminds us of Partition: the suddenness of the event; the sheer contingency of the times; the governmental inability to tackle the crisis; forced migration and destitution; and above all, the overwhelming sense of pain and loss as people die in their millions, with their corpses once again filling up rivers,” said Rituparna Roy, a partition scholar and initiator of the Kolkata Partition Museum.

“The desolation of death, untimely for many, undeserved for all, considering the manner they are going, has never been more potent. In such a scenario, the exhibition will speak to one and all, something that seldom happens in art shows. We believe in the importance of the arts in preserving cultural memory,” Ms. Roy told The Hindu.

This would be the second major event of the Kolkata Partition Museum after a four-day commemoration through films in 2019, when it included features and documentaries from both West Bengal and Bangladesh, and had Tanvir Mokammel and Akram Khan as chief guests.

“We could only have online events after that, owing to the pandemic. We will launch a virtual museum next August, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Partition,” Ms. Roy said.

Said the Delhi-based Debasish Mukherjee, one of the participating artists: “Partition was the largest displacement in human history, and I have always been drawn to its impact, but in my own art practice, I look at displacement in a larger and contemporary context, and my quest or enquiry oscillates between our personal memories and a deeper sense of loss. We are always displaced from our past, with return never a possibility. As our past inevitably turns into the ‘long ago and far away’ of stories recounted to children, we cling on to our memories — both material and intangible, visual and audio — held randomly together in an uneven, half-lit landscape in our minds.”

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