Exhibit Inspired By Shaheen Bagh Women Held Up at India Art Fair
An exhibit at the India Art Fair in Delhi showcasing paintings inspired by the women at Shaheen Bagh and other anti-CAA protests across India, was disrupted on Sunday, 2 February. The artists at the exhibit called ‘The Wall: Community Art Building Mural’, led by Post-Art Project, planned to hoist a collage of paintings as part of an artistic performance, while a musician sang Hum Dekhenge. It was then that, allegedly based on complaints, Delhi Police officials arrived and interrupted the performance. The organisers, on cue, stalled the mural and the singing, and cordoned off the booth.
The complaints pertained to the Urdu calligraphy on the posters and the images of women in hijab in the paintings.
Speaking to The Quint, Gargi Chandola, an artist who was part of the exhibition, said, “This is a festival of solidarity and celebrating women who have come out on the streets. No CAA, NRC or NPR has been mentioned. We just wrote slogans and songs on the imagery, which is beautiful and touching. One of the slogans was ‘Hum Ek Hain’ (We are one.) Our tears of emotion have turned into tears of disappointment.”
More than the police, the artists were outraged at the lack of support from the India Art Fair management.
Indraneel Roy, the musician who was singing Hum Dekhenge at the time of the disruption, said, “It’s very unfortunate. When the police arrived, we thought that at least, they would want to know what is written on the posters. It’s a very racist statement made by the bystanders who said “Yeh Faiz ka gaana ga raha hai” (He’s singing Faiz’s song) and “Yeh auratein hijab pehen ke Urdu mein calligraphy kar rahein hai” (These women are dressed in hijabs and writing calligraphy). The police said they had got three PCR Calls. The India Art Fair management should have supported the artists.”
Myna Mukherjee, the curator for the exhibition that was cordoned off, further echoed the anger at the India Art Fair organisers and said,
“India Art Fair organisers don’t seem to have a spine whatsoever. Police were more fair to us than the organiser folks. We deferred to the Fair’s rules. There was no sloganeering. We talked of unity, resurgence and solidarity, and women’s leadership.”Myna Mukherjee, Curator
Explaining the concept and thought behind the exhibit, Mukherjee said, “This is an exhibit about gender, and we have an exhibition of women artists. We wanted to focus on art and how it empowers women. We expected to have some space to explain ourselves. But the Urdu calligraphy and rising Islamophobia, just ensured we couldn't."
The India Art Fair is an annual art exhibition which takes place in Delhi and was being held this year from 30 January to 2 February 2020. The exhibition this year had a notice outside the venue at NSIC, stating that the organisers have a "zero-tolerance policy against banners or sloganeering at the fair" and anyone in breach of the policy “will be asked to leave the venue.”