The concept of “Ordinary Letters”
Chess is a game of strategy.
The board is set. Everyone from the King to the counsellor, the valiant knight, to the ignoble pawn, await to be conducted by the maestro’s next move.
Archiving as an activity is a duplicitous task, especially if the creation of the paradigm is orchestrated by the patron. Contemporary chronicles lend themselves to narratives, that are formally legitimized by their resurrection as history, and eventually consecrated as culture. A product of this initiation, Company School Painting reads as a palimpsest of societal tugs and adoptions of history, hybridity, and hierarchy. A curious crafting and conquering of customs whose Forgotten Masters can today be venerated in a manner that the forgotten culture of the native, cannot be. The identity displaced in the past is emphasized by the lack of contemporary advancements for the demands of the present.
A clean strategy to categorize and capitalize: the primitive dhoti is replaced by the pride of being in Her Majesty’s service; the horse, with its hair and nature wild and flamboyant, has been clipped and broken to fit the Empire regiment’s standards; even the bare chested Rodiya Women are photographed to be a curated cultural export from the Raj. Language is no longer needed to convey the ideas that optics have framed so eloquently. Brown skin against red livery, a growing and irreversible sense of alienation towards the peshawaas, and the traditional, defining precedent for centuries, is thoroughly replaced in favor of the conqueror’s outlook.
Heritage is toyed with in the hotbed of the Subcontinent at a moment when the colonizer’s urge to chart, taxonomize and sanitize their new territory is at its zenith. Art’s responsibility as historian and librarian, is used with skill, aided by varying degrees of ignorance and complicity from local avenues. The game that dominates Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) is not the titular one, but in fact a tryst of politics and escapism, that allow colonization inland from the port that it was held at.
At our current junction, let us juxtapose strategies – viewer, player, game-maker, pawn.
This game is one of archive.
Money Provides, Culture Aspires – a perspective
I am an artist – it is the business that consumes me, animates me and supports me – autonomy and benefit are mine; but before being an artist, I am a human, a citizen, a member of a community.
For months now, my constant visits to Interior Sindh and my hometown of Mirpur Khas have emphasized the crippling devastation caused by this pandemic. With each visit, more individual-run enterprises had lost their business, more daily-wage workers were left without a means to earn their wage. They are the ones I had in mind when conceiving of ‘Money Provides, Culture Aspires’, in the hope that it would be a tool towards economic autonomy for them. With so much of the world going online and goods and services needing transportation, the bikes and auto rickshaws given to people as a result of the sale of artworks would be vehicles for them to create their own businesses in this new reality, without the worry of accessibility or limitations in purchasing or renting such a conveyance – this would entirely be their own property to use and make use of.
This problem will not end soon. The economic effects of it will not end soon. Thus, our efforts must also continue. My collaborator in this endeavor, Sanat Initiative, allows for this program to have longevity, and for me it highlights the hope that comes with a sense of community and togetherness.
In the words of Dr. Arfa Sayeda Zehra:
پیسہ ضرورت خریدتا ہے، تہذیب آرزو خریدتی ہے