Exhibition: Lived Stories Everyday Lives – Chandigarh/Daudpur – from July 12/13

Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange and Panjab Digital Library has organized an exhibition Lived Stories from July 12 to 15 in Kala Bhawan, Chandigarh and from July 18 to 20 in Daudpur in district Ludhiana. All of you are requested to visit as per your convenience. Here is the synopsis or introductory text of the exhibition.

Images from Private Collections across Southasia

By Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange

The everyday is the most obvious, the most conspicuous, the most social, and yet in some ways, the most inaccessible part of our daily lives. Our ways of thinking, of looking, of experiencing and understanding the world around us are constantly mediated by a series of forms and functions. These varied forms and functions are manifest in the food we eat, the way we dress, our places of work and recreation, and where and why we travel. Each of these, steeped in our daily lives, contains a multiplicity of stories accumulated through time in a manner that is at once deeply historical and current.

Through a series of pictorial and textual vignettes this exhibition presents an understanding of how the past around us has been lived. The events and the activities that have shaped our collective consciousness—the so-called big moments of history—are understood here in terms that are accessible to the people in a language and framework of their own. This is a tiny attempt to look at how everyday lives have been lived, and how they have been chronicled. It is the “small voices of history” that are sought to be brought to the fore here: people who have elided the ‘great’ narratives of history offered through history books, national dailies and the media. Here, postcards, advertisements, calendars, letters, family albums and studio photographs tell the stories of everyday lives as well as extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary people.

The emphasis is on understanding the multitude – those who inhabit spaces similar to our own, and yet unique in their own way. The range of the stories narrated here is as diverse as they are interlinked and mutually coexistent. We present here a selection of the visualities and the ways of living that have formulated and structured lives in Southasia. From professional photographers who sought to embrace momentous events at the precise moment of their occurrence, to amateur record keepers and individuals who wished to hold on to memories immensely personal and cathartic, the stories told here are often located in milieus that are familiar to us and yet seems to carry a feeling of ‘otherness’. This paradox – of the merging of the known with the strange – is recurrent in all of the exhibits, and a defining characteristic of the everyday. In cutting across the boundaries of region and nation-state, the representations from collections across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka help us grasp a shared past that is being slowly effaced by time, politics, and by the seemingly inescapable drive towards of modernization. This exhibition thus, is as much about knowing the antecedents of our present as it is about getting familiar with our collective pasts. The images presented here are by no means iconic, nor do they attempt to be representative. Instead, we urge the viewer to approach each exhibit with the comfort of familiarity and the exhilaration of the unknown: the quotidian and the extraordinary nestled together to present vignettes from everyday life in several sites across Southasia.

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“Cinema for Change” – Addressing Violence Against Women


The South Asian Film Education Society (S.A.F.E.S.) hosted its first “Cinema for Change” film festival from April 19 to April 21, 2013. The theme: “Addressing Violence Against Women.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Guest Filmmaker, Samar Minallah, appeared at the opening night by Skype from Pakistan. Her documentary, “Swara: A Bridge Over Troubled Water,” looked at “swara,” the practice of using unmarried girls as compensation to settle disputes between families.  The practice of “swara” in the film of the same name, typically takes place as follows. One man kills another man and the family of the man who has been killed wants compensation from the murderer. The compensation takes the form of a girl, transferred from the family of the murderer to the family who would otherwise seek revenge. The girl is then expected to live in the “other” family as a daughter-in-law.

The practice of “swara” is well-known in North-West Pakistan and in other tribal communities and stopping it, Minallah admits, can be dangerous. The murderer (whose family pays the girl as compensation) is “let off the hook;” stopping that compensation would mean that the murderer must otherwise pay for his crime which, Minallah notes he will typically go to any lengths to avoid. Although Minallah acknowledges the challenges in fighting “swara,” she has helped bring awareness of the issue to the public and to policymakers through short public service-announcements. She also works to sensitive the police to the problem after the practice was made illegal through legislation passed in 2004. A growing number cases of “swara” moreover are being reported and addressed through public interest-litigation (200 cases were reported in 2011).


Saturday, April 20, 2013

The second day saw the screening of “Common Gender” (2012), a Bangladeshi activist-documentary on the life of the hijra (intersexual) community of Dhaka and the violence underlying the social process of gendering. The two other films were “Afghanistan Unveiled” (2007) and “Provoked” (2006).

The film “Provoked,” is based on the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a Punjabi woman in the United Kingdom who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband in 1989. Her conviction was set aside in 1992, partly through the help of the women’s advocacy and outreach group, Southhall Black Sisters. The judge noted that because of years of  abuse, Kiranjit suffered severe depression and battered women syndrome; her mental responsibility for the act was thus “diminished.” She had also been “provoked,” but was unable to retaliate right away because of her mental state. Her case (R v. Ahluwalia) changed English law, leading to the setting aside of convictions for battered women in 1992 and thereafter.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In “Saving Face,” we hear the stories of two survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan, Zakia and Rukshana. While highlighting the brutality of the attacks and their affect on the women, we see how the problem is being fought through cooperation between reconstructive surgeons, policymakers, lawyers, the media and NGO’s is key in bringing perpetrators to justice and helping women rebuild their lives.

In “Bol” (2012) Meghna Halder presents a short-film in three parts through masks, puppetry and shadows. Whereas the “The Cyclist” looks at the facelessness of the Indian Muslim woman who died in a bomb blast in Bangalore, “The Rape” looks at how two women went missing in Kashmir and were presumed to have been raped and disposed of by the Indian Army. In “The Mask,” Meghna presents the story of a man who wakes one day to find his face has been stolen. All three films were layered with meanings, teasing one’s interpretations.

While the issue of violence against women is ongoing and oftentimes distressing, I admire the filmmakers’ use of film as a medium for raising social awareness of the problem. In Minallah, we saw an example of the activist film-maker who has continued to make films despite risk to herself. In three films, we saw how individual and community activism can bring about social change such as the passage of law against “swara” and acid-attacks in Pakistan or the precedent-setting case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia in the United Kingdom. While the struggle continues, the SAFES has hopefully played its own part in presenting “cinema for change.”

For a list of all films shown and descriptions, go to: http://southasianfilm.blogspot.ca/