I am interested in humans, humanity and the history of human evolution. Humans demand a form of communication or even confrontation, and humanity means looking into our inner self. We often use history to validate own beliefs. We do not depict the past in an objective historical context, but instead view history only through the lens of contemporary beliefs. Yet we cannot understand our present without understanding our past.
The 1947 Partition and the 1971 war of South Asia have had lasting repercussions, not only for the region, but also for the larger international community. For South Asian history, it meant independence for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, it also inaugurated Indo-Pakistani tension. Conflict between Hindus and Muslims had long existed on the Subcontinent, but the Partition brought that conflict to the international level, and exacerbated it. The results included the wars in 1948 and 1971.
As a Bangladeshi, the 1971 history of the liberation war is in my blood. Side by side, the sufferer of the war is involved with me. That’s why I want to analyse the history of separation. I know that I can find out more on this history after working in Pakistan and meeting with people of Pakistan. Through my work I want to see the war and separation, and what we found from the war. The 1971 liberation war is an identity of ours. 1971 witnessed greatest human influx in Bangladesh. I wanted to see what the people of Pakistan thought about 1971. I had been interested in knowing their history of 1971. Are they also sufferers like us? I planed my work by thinking about this.
After I came here I took some interviews with people about their thoughts on the 1971 war. They also take the side of the Bangladeshi. In my film my two interviewees were living in Bangladesh at the time of the war, but they were not supporters of the war. They still love Bangladesh. All of us belong the suffering of the war.
My family members were a part of the 1947 separation and 1971 war. My uncle was alive in 1947. My cousin, brother, and my father were part of 1971 war. An evidence of this war is still carried in my brother’s body.
Migration is another part of this war. Originally from India’s Bihar state, the Urdu-speaking Biharis moved to what was then East Pakistan in 1947 at the time of India’s Partition. When East Pakistan moved to secede and the liberation war broke out between East and West Pakistan in 1971, the Biharis – who considered themselves citizens of Pakistan – sided with West Pakistan. During the liberation war of Bangladesh there were many attacks on the Bihari community by the people of Bangladesh. Some still live in Bangladesh; they would not go back there home. Some Bangladeshis also live in Pakistan; they could not come back. While India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were once a single nation, its people cannot easily move between these countries. Bangladeshis face difficulties in coming to Pakistan and India. We face visa and immigration problems. But people still feel India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are a family, and that they have a shared identity. People have anguish, grief, and pain that the nations were divided. I also see same feelings in the people of Pakistan.
My project for this residency focuses on a controversial episode, which reasonable historians describe differently according to their own national or political biases. My research priority was to balance these varied perspectives. I use three pillow covers in the work. On one cover viewers can see a pistol, which is a symbol of liberation war. The model is the same model that fighters used in 1971. Side by side, viewers also see roses, which are a symbol of peace. On the second pillow cover I have painted the whole India map, showing the nation before the 1947 Partition. On the third cover the viewer sees a skeleton head and flowers. I use embroidery, awl and colloq.
In my work I have a special interest in encouraging cooperation between communities, prioritising their identities. I am
particularly concerned by inter-religious collaboration at the grassroots level, which can enhance development and strengthen the basics of society. That’s why I look back to our societies and raise the question of the necessities of human being. In this project I can share and decentralise my work on history, socio-economic culture and community. It is a community that is committed to the principles of human dignity and equality. War is not expected by any means. If we try, we can work together. We expect that this situation why not come again. Through these works I try to articulate the way that we all are a family.
- Ahsan Jamal, ( karachi, Pakistan )
- Ayub Wali, (Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan)
- Yasmin Jahan, (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
- Ammad Tahir
- Exhibition Catalogue
- Paula Sengupta, (Calcutta, India)
- Zahra Malkani
- Zambeel Dramatic Readings
- The Journey from 1947 to 1971 Retraced
(by Peerzada Salman)
- War and Roses
- (by Peerzada Salman)