‘Beyond Pain: An Afterlife’ is an exhibition of drawings, paintings posters, prints, books and videos realized during a decade-long project undertaken after the Gujarat riots in 2002.
The project involved working with six young girls who lost several members of their families in the carnage at Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. The first phase (2002-2008) involved fieldwork and a series of workshops facilitated by the artist, Vasudha Thozhur and resource persons from various professions. A residency at Khoj, New Delhi, in 2006 supported the compilation of the output, mostly produced by the girls and the editing of six pieces of video footage shot by them.
In the second phase of the project (2009-2012) the artist added her paintings to the collection, and brought it within the purview of formal display spaces in the form of collaboration.
Broadly speaking, ‘Beyond Pain: An Afterlife’ examines the role that art practices can play in a collective trauma such as that which gripped Gujarat in 2002 and addresses a range of issues from personal loss to displacement and the possibility of mobilization and the economic revival though the use of the visual language.
The exhibit focuses on building an understanding, and the message at its most basic is about friendship. It could be considered as a working model through which a range of skills were a acquired along with political awareness and the possibility of resistance, intervention and change through creative means. The focus is on process rather that a pre-determined outcome, and also the recording of process through writing, painting and the digital media, as an archive against forgetting and the creation of a context-specific resource. The idea of working with display as a narrative, documentary mode is central to the exhibition. A project that had functioned actively within the community as a locus for mobilization and creative process is transformed into an artwork – art that enters the area of display could in that sense, be seen as an afterlife, but almost always is also a presage of things to come.
This project was made possible in collaboration with Himmat, a women’s collective formed by those widowed in Naroda Patiya in 2002, with the initiative of Monica Wahi and Zaid Ahmed Shaikh. It was funded by two successive grants from India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, and supported by Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi.