As you enter the basement of Gallery Espace in Delhi, you are caught by an unusual sight. 101 marble bulbs hang from the ceiling. They are part of artist Zarina Hashmi’s installation, Frozen Light. We are told these marble bulbs come with a profound history. The story goes that the marble used to make these bulbs came from Afghanistan. These were smuggled into Balochistan and later moulded into bulbs on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan. According to Hashmi, the story of the marble is her own story. “I was born in Aligarh and travelled all around the globe. I have seen so many cultures. Travelling has informed my work,” says the celebrated print-maker, who is currently based in New York.
Hashmi tells us that she is working on another installation, Descending Light, of a similar nature but with black marble. Her yet another work, Folding House, is autobiographical and has 100 houses made out of bits and pieces of paper left from other projects over the years.
“I don’t like to throw things. Everything you see in this show is a residue of my other projects. I didn’t buy any new material.” Made in black and golden, these houses speak of many phases of Hashmi’s life including the partition.
She confesses she is not a great fan of the art world. For her, creating art itself is a big challenge. “It does not interest me whether people like my work or not. For me the process and the material used are important. I like to use paper because it’s so fragile and yet it has lasted for so many years. Isn’t it amazing?”
Hashmi feels that the time is running out and there is so much that she needs to do. The artist feels the responsibility to pass on the information of her times to the next generation. “It’s important to pass on the knowledge and the changes we saw, to the next generation. Unlike today, we recorded our history by writing letters to each other in our mother tongue. Nowadays, people send mails and delete them. Where is the record? This way, we lose our history, our poetry and our heritage. And if we don’t have our heritage, we have nothing.” ?