Containing Multitudes: Exhibition 'Hearts On Fire' Explores Evolving Parsi Identities

Shantanu Das
Shantanu DasShantanu Das, Chemould Colaba

Mumbai’s culture has been enriched and entwined with the Parsi community for centuries now. From the Parsi gara to the nataks to business, the community has contributed immeasurably and been appreciated in return.

A new group exhibition at Chemould Colaba, titled ‘Hearts on Fire’, features thirteen artists. Curated by Sarica Robyn Balsari, the exhibition features photography that focuses on the nature of Parsi identity, exploring the diverse ways in which the Parsi community has been represented across visual media. It puts a specific emphasis on contemporary images juxtaposed with shifting narratives of memory, history, and belonging. The Parsi identity is recorded as unfinished and emerging, with the photographs being cast as a multitude of future possibilities.

Image Courtesy: (L) Minnie Mama, Navroz Day by Divya Cowasji; Shantanu Das (R)

Rejecting the idea of a singular Parsi identity, the exhibit defines new paths to a Parsi identity that contains multitudes. Inspired by Barthes’ suggestion that cameras are ‘clocks for seeing’, which means to turn back time using photographs, and T.S Eliot’s 1936 poem, ‘Burnt Norton’, the exhibition juxtaposes traditional portraits with contemporary photographs. The intersections of past and future Parsi identities, along with the convergence of history and the contemporary, show off the distinctive visual culture of the community. The domestic and religious spheres of the baug and the agiary, are interspersed with the symbolic landscape of Udvada in Gujarat — the resting place of the Atash Behram, the eternally burning fire.

The curator Sarica Robyn Balsari, says that the choice to include both Parsi and non-Parsi photographers was a conscious one, explaining, “The photos range from staged portraits to candid moments and cinematic stylisation, the distinct methodologies, and backgrounds of the artists themselves offer a powerful lens for observing Parsi identity.”

“Our hope is that viewers will come away from the show with a sense of the multifaceted and layered aspects of identity that are in a continual process of becoming. Our exhibition is about celebrating identity in all its myriad forms and its contradictions. As part of that purpose, we have intentionally juxtaposed various images from portraits and candid photographs to video reels and music videos, across different time periods to disrupt traditional binaries of the past and present, history and the contemporary.”

— - Sarica Robyn Balsari
Image Courtesy: (L) Ardeshir And Khorshed By Sunhil Sippy; Porus Vimadalal (R)

The show runs from the 10th of September to the 15th of October 2022 at Chemould Colaba. The gallery is an extension of Chemould Prescott, which supports breakthrough young artists at the start of their careers. So in addition to featuring iconic Parsi photographers like Porus Vimadalal and Sooni Taraporevala, the exhibition also throws light on breakthrough photographers Iyanah Bativala and Divya Cowasji.

The show is a must-visit for anyone wanting to learn more about the visual and historical aspects of the community. It is the hope of the curator that people will engage with and reflect on Parsi photographic practice through the kaleidoscopic view of the past, present, and future. The works present diverse forms rife with complexities, traversing linguistic, geographical, and social borders.

If you enjoyed reading this, we also suggest:

Related Stories

No stories found.