Independence Day may signify the culmination of the years of struggle for freedom, but for many people, it also marks a chequered history of Partition, forced migration, death and loss.
Kolkata-based artist Paula Sengupta (43) is exhibiting a collection of installations and handiwork at the Chemould Prescott Road gallery, to chart the journeys her parents were forced to take when East Bengal was partitioned.
Titled Rivers of Blood, the show also includes an exhibition of found objects in two wardrobes and a series of framed works that use nakshi kantha, a traditional form of embroidery.
“Some of the worst rioting took place in the village where my father lived, which was close to the Tripura border, in Kumila district. After he migrated, he neither talked about nor returned to his village,” said Sengupta.
The artist visited her parent’s ancestral homes for the first time in 2008. A series of installations of wooden mandaps with a video of that journey are part of the exhibition.
The artist also explores West Bengal hybrid culture, wrought by colonialism and migration. The sound installation comprises four recordings of stories of her parents’ childhood and the homes they left behind. These are attached to diptych works that portray menus.
“Each frame encases recipes from East Bengal, West Bengal and one that belonged to the colonial times. Cuisines are cultural signifiers too.”
“The exhibition is a documentary archive of family trauma fuelled by the partition of Bengal,” said independent curator, Sharmistha Ray. However, said Ray, “the absence of anger and cruelty is stark. One expects it to creep out of the intricate layers created by Sengupta, but it never does.”
Rivers of Blood is running at Chemould Prescott Road at Fort. It’s open from Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm, till September 10.