CLOSING THIS WEEKEND: The Sahmat Collective – Art & Activism in India since 1989 at The Art Gallery of Mississauga

The Sahmat Collective is another great show at the AGM!

I recently had the chance to get in to the AGM to see this incredible show. The Art Gallery of Mississauga isn’t exactly small and it isn’t exactly large but it seems to be the optimal amount of space and it’s always beautifully utilized. The corridor that takes you into the main gallery feels like an intimate welcome that primes you for what lies ahead. There is also a cave-like alcove that works perfectly for video installations. Every time I see an exhibit here I am impressed!


Above images of gallery space courtesy Art Gallery of Mississauga.

The AGM is a gallery that is doing a tremendous job making their institution relevant to the broader community of Mississauga – one of the most culturally diverse in Canada. Their current exhibit The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 uses up almost every available surface in the gallery to create a time capsule of India at a moment in her history when culture clashes were reaching a boiling point.

“Since 1989, the influential Delhi based Sahmat Collective has offered a platform for artists, writers, poets, musicians, actors, and activists to create and present works of art that promote artistic freedom and celebrate secular, egalitarian values. The collective formed in the weeks after playwright, actor,and activist Safdar Hashmi was fatally attacked by political thugs while performing a street play. In the more than twenty years since, Sahmat has drawn on India’s secular heritage and an expansive group of collaborators to produce a series of projects that engage in important political and social debates through a mix of high art and street culture.” Read more…

I walked through the show with a friend who had grown up in Gujarat. As a Muslim she had memories of the religious conflicts. The exhibit timeline reached back to touch her early childhood. The Sahmat Collective was the result of a reaction to what was taking place around her, her family and others at this time.


Ways of Resisting
from Smart Museum of Art on Vimeo.

In urban settings where much of the population comes from abroad arts institutions can become midwives for the emergence of memories that provide a link to the motherland left behind. Galleries can give the members of their community an emotionally deep experience by participating with memory, not as nostalgia, but rather as place to locate dialogue that can impact social change here in Canada.

As part of the programming for The Sahmat Collective show the AGM did just that. “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” was a panel discussion on “Art, Activism and Artist Collectives” that included Canadian artist duo Condé + Beveridge activists / artists whose careers stretch back even father than 1989. The panel posed the question:

“What is the role of the artist collective and what is the relationship between art and activism from both a global and local perspective?”

Galleries should also be looking at the spiritual topography that New Canadians layer onto the land as a way to be relevant to more diverse audiences. “Stories of our Landscape | Conversations after Sahmatwas an event that brought people out to ride along in the “Architecture Bus Tour” for “an introduction to the migration of various religious architectural traditions to the Mississauga cityscape.”

The exhibit curated by Jessica Moss and Ram Rahman and presented by University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art was

“animated by the urgent belief that art can propel change and that culture can reach across boundaries. Sahmat has offered a platform for an expansive group of artists and collaborators to present powerful works of art that defend freedom of expression and battle intolerance within India’s often divisive political landscape. Based out of Delhi, the Sahmat Collective uses a combination of high art and street art to resist forces that threaten the pluralist and democratic spirit of creative expression in India. In conjunction with this exhibition, the Art Gallery of Mississauga presents programming that interprets exhibition themes within the Canadian context to critically examine the role of the artist collective, the relationship between art and activism and the ways in which art has the capacity to make change.” Read more…

In plurality their is unity. With unity comes strength.

The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 closes this weekend October 19.
More info on AGM’s website as well as on Facebook and twitter @AGMengage.

To explore The Sahmat Collective further visit Vimeo for a selection of videos that give an informative background of their rich practice.

All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

 

TORONTO THIS WEEKEND: “Cycle of a Sari” by Nisha Ahuja at Annex Theatre

torso of young woman dancing with hands in pose and wearing sari

“A cosmic combination of storytelling, dance, aerial silks, song, myth, sound, and shadow play.”

torso of young woman dancing with hands in pose and wearing sari“Partitioned from land and love in Sindh, Rani travelled to present day India, and eventually to Turtle Island (North America), also Partitioned Indigenous land. After her passing, Rani’s ashes are taken from her granddaughter, Asha, who calls Rani into her dreams for answers on how to move forward after this interrupted ritual. In the cosmos with grandmothers from other places and times, Rani roots into ancestral wisdom and her life during the Partition and Independence of South Asia all the while longing for her love, Farah.”

Written & Performed by nisha ahuja
Director/Dramaturge: Yvette Nolan
Choreography & Performed by Kumari Giles
Set, Costume & Sound Design: Melissa Moore
Lighting Design: Michelle Ramsay
Production Manager: Shawn Henry
Stage Manager: cassy walker

ANNEX THEATRE
730 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON
September 5, 6 and 7
7pm
$20/PWYC

 

To reserve tickets contact: cycleofasari@gmail.com
Also, connect on Cycle of a Sari Facebook Page.

More about the playwright nisha ahuja on her website.

Young East Asian woman sitting in hanging fabric and holding out an orange peel
Young East Asian woman lying on floor wrapped in a sari with oranges and orange peels around her
Two East Asian women, one is hanging in fabric suspended from the ceiling, the other lying on the floor
Two young East Asian woman hanging from fabric suspended from ceiling
Two young East Asian woman, one stretches her arm to the other
Two young East Asian woman, one hanging from fabric suspended from ceiling the other backlit behind a sari suspended
Two young East Asian woman, one hanging from fabric suspended from ceiling the other backlit behind a sari suspendedTop image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. Images of Cycle of a Sari by Leah Snyder for Cycle of a Sari.

2014: The Year of Saying No to Bullies

Getting rid of bullies in 2014.

At the start of last year MIXED BAG MAG proclaimed 2013 to be “The Year of the Artist” and from what was encountered this year in the galleries, festivals and on the street it was! So many of the incredibly talented people I know started to come into their own and express that they felt something shift for the better. At this time last year I quoted Marshall McLuhan as saying:

“The job of the artist is to upset all the senses and thus provide new vision and new powers of adjusting to and relating to new situations.”

I witnessed a lot of artists doing this throughout the year. The result was the cards of truth were laid out on the table. Bullies were exposed and cultural provocateurs got down to the healing work.

This year, with all the progress made, it’s now time to put our energies into fully shut down the bully for good whether it is the bully in your own family, your place of work or your government.

In 2013, as a global community, we witnessed the Assad regime in Syria using chemical weapons to poison even the smallest of souls; we witnessed India taking a massive step backwards and re-criminalizing homosexuality and in Canada our own government used the RCMP to push people around on their own land on (#Elsipogtog).

We also witnessed an entire city being held hostage by a Mayor whose moral compass is broken beyond repair. But what do we do? We encourage the behavior through the mechanism of the spectacle. Reality television as well as social media has turned bullying into our entertainment.

Instead we need to build societies that have mechanisms of protection for the ones who are getting the life kicked out of them.

A small but mighty action is to take the time to notice when someone is being hurt and then make the move to stand along beside them rather than have the expectation that the person or that community should fight the battle alone without outside support. We can work together on this.

MIXED BAG MAG wishes everyone an uplifting New Year!

Caine Stands Up from The Bully Project on Vimeo.

MIXED BAG MAG RECOMMENDS: Midnight’s Children

In the reality of each of our lives lies the potential for magic.

The stories of Salman Rushdie often centre around hybrid places and the impact they have on the psyche of their inhabitants. His characters labour with the problems that can arise with religious and ethnic pluralism. The characters in Midnight’s Children, a story set at the birth of India’s Independence, flesh out a history whose fecundity is ripe with possibilities but also all the pitfalls that come along with a diverse population in competition for their own interests.

The story of Midnight’s Children revolves around Saleem Sinai, a baby boy born at the precise moment of Independence, whose divine timing, as he says makes him “handcuffed to history.” Through his adult eyes we go back with Saleem to witness the importance of his birth and how it plays out in his life. Even the normal moments of his childhood that like so many of us involved bicycles, movie theatres and games of hide & seek, upon reflection become mythological in proportion. We join him in his search to connect the dots of a painful life that was not without its own beauty and his special gift that flips like two sides of a coin between being a blessing and curse.

In the book I enjoyed the twists and turns that the characters take along their migratory paths criss-crossing the sub-continent as well as landing in the newly formed Pakistan and Bangladesh. Rushdie’s tales are deeply layered and I appreciate the history lesson one gets when reading a Rushdie novel. I love his choice of using magic realism because the genre allows him to pierce the mystical qualities of life to show how simple moments, like a child born at the stroke of midnight, can be the stuff of legends.

In the movie I enjoyed Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s intimacy in her choice of shots. She allowed us to get very close to the characters which added a warmth to them that I missed in the book because it was so densely packed with historical details.

The other special elements in the movie was the choice to use Rushdie as the narrator and voice of Saleem Sinai as well as the moving musical score by the brilliant British composer Nitin Sawhney.

The book and the movie  each stand on their own but MIXED BAG MAG recommends treating yourself  to both. It is worth what you come away with – the idea that in the reality of each of our lives lies the potential of magic and the elements that myths are made of.

Visit the Midnight’s Children website, follow along on Facebook and twitter  @midnightsmovie #MidnightsChildren.

For Toronto screen times visit Cinema Clock!