Writing against culture of racism, communalism

Poetry Installations

A poetry exhibition of artist Saba Hasan is currently on display in the form of video and text installations in the Capital’s Lalit Kala Akademi. A keen observer of the interplay of cultural and political factors, Hasan has chosen a multiplicity of media to tackle subjects ranging from power relations, personal experiences, and communal conflict to gender politics, human rights and philosophy.

In her latest presentation named “Saba Hasan Reads Her Poems”, the artist tries to capture the complexity of her world by channelling it through the more enigmatic lenses of poetic imageries and personal histories.

The video Saba Hasan Reads Her Poems was shown in Barcelona as part of a performance festival last month and comprises three of her verses Rehearsal for a Poem, The Two of Us and Rain.

According to Hasan while Rehearsal for a Poem delves into growing racism around the world, Rain is more of a protest against the criminalisation of homosexuality in India.

The poems were written in the last four years and concern themselves with racial profiling, caste and gender oppression, love, conflict as in war, violence and hope.
Hasan’s text installation, which brings into focus women’s rights through
Mahashweta Devi’s text in Urdu, is translated and scripted by her mother, Tahera Hasan. It addresses her personal politics and refers to the inner compulsion and responsibility of each of us to question oppressive social norms and move ahead towards change and, walking a new road.

Hasan uses several Urdu expressions in these English verses, which form old literary conventions and to her familiar intimate sounds and meanings. One such is the use of her own name as the poets have always done in ghazals.

“I write my voice works in English as that is my best language today but this is translocated from Urdu carrying with it the desire to belong to many worlds. My language is a paradox of connections between places I have lived in, like Russia,
India, Switzerland, France, USA. From Tagore as much as from Pushkin, Hafiz to Lorca, I have now learnt to speak in a voice invoking many myths,” Hasan
told Metrolife.

According to the organisers, the show is a milestone in Hasan’s practice as it shows her deft and sensitive handling of all her new media materials like video and
text installation bringing a deeper understanding in combination with her
consistent use of text and sound in two languages,
Urdu and English.

“Urdu, her mother tongue, having left India with her parents when she was six-years-old, which she doesn’t read or write has always been a part of her artwork. She feels it is still her mother tongue and she places it in the context of a cultural symbol of a modern discourse in a syncretic India. That is why in her installation here she has used the text from the great literary and revolutionary icon, Mahashweta Devi in her mother’s translated hand–writing,” the organisers said.

Hasan while speaking to Metrolife laid emphasis on how her work, and that of other artists is necessary in the current political climate of ‘religious polarisation’.
The exhibition is being held at the Lalit Kala Akademi Foyer Gallery till 19th of
December from 11am to 7pm.

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