'Woman Is As Woman Does’ Examines The Female Gaze In Post Colonial Politics & Culture

'Woman Is As Woman Does’ Examines The Female Gaze In Post Colonial Politics & Culture
Image Courtesy: Jehangir Nicholson Gallery

Art and dissent go hand in hand, for centuries creatives around the world have stood up to fascist regimes by communicating messages through their artwork. The injustice might be forgotten by a larger population over time, but it gets immortalised by being captured in art. To fully grasp the socio-political backdrop of a country or community one can easily decode the past by visiting an artist’s work.

An exhibition to mark the centenary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya maps India’s history of post-colonial and cultural problems through photo-placards, documentaries, a sculpture installation, a performance video, a comic scroll, protest songs, zines, Instagram albums, posters, recipes, and contextual ephemera such as pamphlets brought out by diverse women’s groups.

Image Courtesy: Jehangir Nicholson Gallery

The curation by Nancy Adajania, a cultural theorist and art critic, is vital because it brings these issues through the works of 27 women artists, centering the narrative on female gaze. Presenting five generations of women practitioners, the late Zarina Hashmi (1937-2020) being the oldest and Al-Qavi Nanavati (b. 1995) the youngest, with an emphasis on female artistic labour- ‘doing’ as achieving the impossible, whether incrementally or through radical gestures.

Through different mediums and formats, the exhibition highlights women’s movement from the Mathura rape case in the 1970’s which gained momentum through with successful protests for legal reform in 1980, to women’s role in the Chipko movement in 1970’s and recently the Shaheen Bagh protests of 2020. The multitude of voices presents a rich history of women being the central vehicles of change, at the forefront of multiple political movements.

The fight against institutions to safeguard their individual liberties, emphasises a sense of agency Indian women have possessed against all odds. Moreover, these empathetic narratives of speaking truth to power have been relayed by women storytellers; all from diverse origins, caste, classes and ethnicities, pushing forward alternate media highlighting marginalised voices.

The exhibition is on display for weekend drop-in tours over two galleries, the Premchand Roychand Gallery and the Jehangir Nicholson Gallery until 16th October 2022.

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