BABUR KI GAI: A REVIEW

Review by Neha Kirpal
November 01, 2018

 

Babur Ki Gai

Conceptualised by Adwait Singh

Amritah Sen, Anupama Alias, Manjunath Kamath, Elancheziyan S, Fay Ku, Kedar Dhondu, Ketaki Sarpotdar, Khadim Ali, Neda Tavallaee, Priyanka D’Souza, Priyesh Trivedi, Pujasree Burman, Radhika Agarwala, Shailesh BR, Shilo Shiv Suleman, Waseem Ahmed, Waswo X. Waswo, Yogesh Ramakrishna and Zahra Yazdani Nia
October 25 to November 20, 2018

Gallery Latitude 28 and Art District XIII, New Delhi

 

A group show showcasing contemporary mythopoesis, called Babur ki Gai, is now showing at Lado Sarai by Latitude 28 and Art District XIII. Conceptualised by Adwait Singh, the exhibition showcases works by 19 artists from the Indian subcontinent and beyond. The exhibition series has three separate chapters. The current edition focuses on the first chapter on ‘Contemporary Mythopoiesis’, which examines the oxymoron of ‘contemporary history’ through the phenomenon of fictional or artificial mythology.

 

The title, Babur ki Gai refers to a key work in the show by young artist Priyanka D'Souza, who claims to have recovered the lost pages from the Baburnama folio. The authenticity of these pages as well as their recent citation by a politician—the BJP chief in Rajasthan—in support of the agenda to ban cow slaughter is however contested, as researchers suggest that the mention of cow slaughter happens not in the Baburnama but in his 'wasaya' or will, which has been proven to be a 17th century forgery. As such, the title encapsulates the informal volleying of certain shared ideas and illusions as if they were actual facts of history in order to achieve political ends, and the general dishonouring of the truth in a world that increasingly traffics in fake news. “Babur ki Gai also hints at the mythopoetic function, whereby artists are able to challenge certain political philosophies or prevailing social customs with unconventional belief systems and alternative visions of the world,” adds Bhavna Kakar, Director and Founder of Gallery Latitude 28. 

 

With this exhibition, the gallery continues its allegiance towards emerging artists and the association with MSU Baroda, Kakar’s alma mater. Three of the participating artists—Priyanka D’Souza, Yogesh Ramakrishna and Ketaki Sarpotdar—are young artists trained from the institute. While Priyanka’s paintings have a strong fictional element with political underpinnings, Ketaki’s artworks have been displayed in Israel and Sweden apart from India. Yogesh is a recipient of the H>A>R>D Young Artists National Scholarship for printmaking. Another artist, Elan Cheziyan, a graduate of the Delhi College of Art, employs folklore, myths and storytelling to allegorise modern social and political affairs.

 

There are several other highlights from the exhibition: While Amritah Sen takes on some of the most commonly used expressions and proverbs in her native Bengal that have acquired mythical status; Anupama Alias reinterprets Christian and Hebrew iconography to voice her feminist concerns; animation filmmaker Priyesh Trivedi’s celebrated Adarsh Balak series subverts the imagery of state-sponsored idealism recognisable through certain educational charts used by school children in making social science scrapbooks; Shilo Shiv Suleman, the founder of ‘The Fearless Collective’, has created a site-specific work that celebrates female sexuality in the process of reimagining the missing Sanskrit manuscript, Chandrakalas composed by a mysterious sage in the 4th century BCE; Pujasree Burman deconstructs the parable of the body through a series of expressionist watercolours; Kedar Dhondu 'rewrites' the 'histories' of certain local shrines that have inexplicably endured the interregnal violence characterising cultural or political evolutions in the Goan hinterland. Waswo X Waswo's hand-painted photographs mischievously appropriate colonial archetypes such as the 'evil orientalist', turning them inside out, whereas B Manjunath Kamath’s hollowed-out sculptures pay respect to Vaishnavite fables and iconography.

 

“In a world of grave times, we wish to provide a platform for young contemporary artists to embrace surrealism and showcase the oxymoronic realities through tiny dreams of a faraway time. It is a welcome antidote to the nauseating righteousness and condescension that often exists in harping tales of religious leaders, political legends and clichéd historians,” says Kapil Chopra, Mentor of Art District XIII. 

 

The exhibition also has works by eminent international artists such as US-based Taiwanese artist Fay Ku whose work is figurative, narrative and connects with past and present cultural histories as well as Pakistani miniaturist Waseem Ahmed, an artist of international repute with several international solo shows to his credit. There is also Australia-based Hazara artist Khadim Ali whose works are displayed at leading museums and collections worldwide such as the Guggenheim, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the Documenta 13 in Kabul. It also marks the first Indian exhibition for the Iranian artist Zahra Yazdani Nia whose series of imaginary sceneries originate from her immediate sociopolitical environs.