Jameel Arts Centre’s ‘Proposals for a Memorial to Partition’ revisits South Asia - GulfToday

Jameel Arts Centre’s ‘Proposals for a Memorial to Partition’ revisits South Asia


This composition is titled A Border Takedown Party.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Art Jameel is presenting ‘Proposals for a Memorial to Partition’ (June 18 – Feb. 19, 2023) at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s contemporary art museum. The group exhibition, curated by Murtaza Vali, brings together offerings by 20 artists and writers that revisit the traumatic shifts that produced the modern nation-states of South Asia. The diverse show includes a broad spectrum of media, from text, drawing and painting to installation, maquettes, video and audio, contributing a poetic and speculative look at a moment in history that cannot be restricted by definition. ‘Proposals’ is accompanied by a public programme of talks, seminars, films and various learning opportunities for all ages, in its eight-month run.

The exhibition features both highly established artists and emerging voices showing in the Middle East for the first time: Bani Abidi, Saira Ansari, Hemali Bhuta, Fahd Burki, CAMP, Abhijan Toto, Fileona Dkhar and Pujita Guha for the Forest Curriculum, Shilpa Gupta, Faiza Hasan, Aziz Hazara, Karachi LaJamia (Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani), Shreyas Karle, Amitava Kumar, Pak Khawateen Painting Club, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Fazal Rizvi, Seher Shah, Omer Wasim and Nabla Yahya; with new commissions by Faiza Hasan, Fazal Rizvi and Omer Wasim.


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First-hand witnesses to the events that began 75 years ago are fast dwindling; the exhibition acts as a repository, collecting histories and ideas in an ever-changing, ongoing process of memorialisation.

In the aftermath of British colonial rule, a few crucial weeks in 1947 initiated complex and still-unresolved processes of displacement, fragmentation, conflict and nation-building that spanned decades, and which continue to deeply scar the societies and peoples of the subcontinent.

The exhibition undertakes the perhaps unattainable task of imagining monuments for an event with many conflicting interpretations.

Murtaza Vali is a critic, curator and art historian.

Most of the artists’ proposals hint at the impossibility of a single monument or unifying narrative: they tend to offer delicate, informal, playful and often collective, ways of looking at history and memory.

To take two examples: Berlin and Kabul-based artist Hazara, winner of the 2021 Future Generation Art Prize, has produced photographs that reference the kinds of games played by Baloch and Pashtun communities waiting to cross the highly militarised and arbitrary borders that divide them.

Renowned Mumbai-based artist Gupta’s ongoing participatory work invites 100+ people to draw a map of their country from memory; their fragile accumulation highlights the mutability of national borders and belonging.

‘Proposals’ also takes an accumulative approach, where new proposals are shown alongside the earlier ones, translated from English into Bengali, Hindi, Kannada and Urdu, and dispersed in the exhibition.

Eleven years after their initial submissions, artists Shah and Gupta contributed new proposals, reflecting on a changing political landscape and new avenues in their own artistic practices.

Sharjah-born and New York-based curator and writer Vali, a regular contributor to Art Jameel programmes, and curator of Jameel Arts Centre’s 2018 inaugural show ‘Crude’, initiated the project in 2011 as part of a series of publications commissioned by Sharjah Biennial 10 under the title Manual for Treason and included proposals by artists Fahd Burki, Shezad Dawood, Shilpa Gupta, Nalini Malani, Yamini Nayar and Seher Shah.

Also a critic and art historian, his ongoing research interests include materialist art histories, ex-centric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, the weight of colour and contemporary art of the Indian Ocean littoral.

He is an Adjunct Curator at the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai as well as a Visiting Instructor at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. He is also a Lead Tutor of Campus Art Dubai and a Lead Mentor for the Hayy: Learning Curatorial Fellowship.

His long-form publications include: A ‘Real Allegory’ of Manual Labor in the Age of Global Capital, published in di’van/A Journal of Accounts, Sydney (2020) and Lost Horizons: Revisiting CAMP’s Indian Ocean Projects in the book accompanying March Meeting 2021, Sharjah Art Foundation.

He received the Creative Capital|Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing (2011) and Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellowship (2010) and served on the Selection Jury for Sharjah Art Foundation Production Programme Grants (2010). Vali earned an MA in Art History and Archaeology from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts (2004).

Known as Dubai’s contemporary arts museum, Jameel Arts Centre presents curated solo and group exhibitions, drawn both from the Art Jameel Collection and through regional and international collaborations.

Current exhibitions include ‘Fahd Burki: Daydreams’, ‘Taus Makhacheva: A Space of Celebration’, ‘Library Circles: Salma Serry’, and Artist’s Garden ‘Desert is a Forest’ by Sunoj D and Namrata Neog. The Centre is a 10,000-square metre, three-storey, multi-disciplinary space, designed by UK-based practice Serie Architects. The building is punctuated by seven gardens, designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel, which reflect local and global desert biomes. Sitting alongside is the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, designed by waiwai, and a collaboration between Art Jameel and Dubai Holding. Entrance to the park, gardens, exhibitions and library is free; all ages are welcome. Located by the creek in Dubai’s Jaddaf Waterfront neighbourhood, the Jameel’s galleries are complemented by the Jameel Library, an open-access research centre dedicated to artists and cultural movements in the Gulf States and beyond.

The Jameel also includes project and commissions spaces, a writer’s studio, an artisan seasonal dining concept ‘Teible’ and the Art Jameel Shop.The Jameel serves as a hub for educational and research initiatives for diverse audiences. Its wider programming embraces partnerships with local, regional and international artists, curators and organisations.


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