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Students’ Art at Biennale Venue Screams at Sexual Violence

Kochi: The bustling heritage town of Mattancherry, in Kochi, has put up a public artwork that symbolizes society’s response to an instance of extreme violence that happened upcountry a year ago and caught global attention. A huge installation of a wailing woman with her hands held open towards the sky portrays the rage and agony associated with the Kathua rape.

‘Scream’ is title of this Students’ Biennale work centering around the abduction, assault and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu in January 2018. The installation, raised in an open ground by using logs of wood and stretches of fabric with a metal frame, is by students and teachers of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh.

Some of the materials in ‘Scream’ came from Kochi’s neighbourhood people, who were impressed on listening to the artistic idea of the fine arts department of one of the country’s vintage educational institutions from the Gangetic plains. While the logs were collected from a local raw mill, the artists have used rags as well in the work being put up at the exhibitory platform that runs parallel to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

The Students’ Biennale this time has around 200 participants, including those from the SAARC countries, in the programme run by the Kochi Biennale Foundation in association with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education.

‘Scream’, which has been curated by visual artist and academic Shukla Sawant, is done by artists Waseem Musthtaq, Sabie Ali, Abhishek Sharma, Pawan Pal, Mohd Aman, Sajan, Nawazish, Mohsina Aftab, Ghazala Parveen, Ranjan Kumar Prasad & Afshan Anjum. The woman’s posture personifies the image of the Kathua victim.

“None of the students in the work were familiar with the task of making such a huge installation,” notes Sawant, 55. “The students did face some challenges but they finally overcame it all.”

The work mirrors how society treats its female population and children. “If we chose to go for materials that are generally dubbed ‘useless’, it is deliberate. For, that is the typical mentality shown towards women and children,” she adds.

The AMU students had initially thought of doing this installation in their city, but that didn’t take off owing to approaching exams that meant a tight academic schedule. “Within me, there was always an urge to do a political work,” says Sawant. “That is how ‘Scream’ has now come into existence.”

Students’ Biennale is led by a team of six curators: Sanchayan Ghosh, Shruti Ramalingaiah, Krishnapriya C P, K P Reji and M P Nishad besides Sawant. The participants have been selected through an open call for applications from art students to activate ideas around ‘Making as Thinking’.

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