An Ally in Solidarity

“Unframed Histories” by Indian artist Rollie Mukherjee (2013).  Water colour on paper.
          Rollie Mukherjee’s art is intensely focused on the Indian occupation of Kashmir and the resistance to it.  She pays special attention to the women of Kashmir who are the backbone of protest against the violent repression of the occupying Indian military, now numbering between 500, 000 and 700,000. She said that her work is “the very notion of female agency, memory and remembrance as resistance in the context of Kashmir.”  Mukherjee’s art tells the world the story of the suffering of Kashmiris, who have endured rape, forced disappearances and massacres for decades.  It is also meant to awaken ordinary Indians to the injustices being perpetrated in their name by the Indian government and military establishment.
          Here she describes this painting: “Unframed ‘histories’” depicts a Kashmiri woman with a mike. She is not a mute beautiful showpiece as represented quite often. She is a reminder of the horror and wounds they are made to exist with. She is a speaking agency, speaking aloud to the whole world and thus breaks the patterned “way of seeing” of the Indians. The Kashmiri design in this painting acts as a trope for peace and unity on the one hand and on the other hand sneer at how its beauty is relished and their pains are cornered and erased.”
          The occupation of Kashmir is one of the longest of its kind in the world, sharing much in common with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.  In this way Mukherjee’s art is much like the late Israeli artist Shimon Tzabar; and it stands as a light of hope at a time when the brutality of both instances can be demoralizing and disheartening.  Her passionate reply to tyranny is in humanizing the oppressed; and to do so not as their savior, but as an ally in solidarity.
Kenn Orphan  2017

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