The Sahmat Collective | Manjit Bawa’s Kaun Mara? (Who Died?)

MANJIT BAWA  Kaun Mara? (Who Died?) Background painted by Paramjit Singh,  December 10, 1992  Acrylic on canvas  Collection of Sahmat  Image credit: Jaclyn M. Qua-Hiansen

Manjit Bawa
Kaun Mara? (Who Died?)
Background painted by Paramjit Singh,
December 10, 1992
Acrylic on canvas
Collection of Sahmat

Painted on the street during a protest organized by Sahmat just days after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Kaun Mara? (Who Died?) is a highly unusual work by the artist Manjit Bawa (1941–2008). As India reacted to the mosque’s destruction in increasingly disheartening and violent ways, the painting captured a grim and bloody scene.

The following text is written by enthusiastic AGM volunteer, Shri Prakash Agarwal. It presents his take on the painting and the Hindu myth which is its subject.

Kaun Mara? (Who Died?) by artist Manjit Bawa
Text by Shri Prakash Agarwal

This painting was created in the aftermath of the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Ayodhya is revered as the birth place of Lord Rama and this Masjid is believed to have been created in place of a temple which existed there as the birth place of Lord Rama.

In this painting, the artist has expressed his anguish at the demolition which he considers against the secular traditions of India. He asks the question written in the top left-hand corner of the painting, kaun mara? (who died?). Is it the demon or the devotee?

The painting can be better appreciated by the fact that Ram is a revered god in India and his name, when written in reverse order, becomes mara, which means Death.

The painter has referenced an Indian mythological story involving one of the ten avatars which God takes to save humanity from the demons. Here, God takes the form of Narasimha – half man, half lion. The story, in brief, is as follows:

There lived a king who obtained great powers by praying to Lord Shiva. Thus he could not be killed either by humans or by animals, also not by any weapons, not on the earth or in the sky. With such invincible powers, the king asked his subject to worship him as God. But his own son was a great devotee of God. The king was furious and demanded him to show his God. The son replied that he is everywhere. At this the king hit a pillar in anger. God, in the form of Narasimha, appeared. This form was neither man nor animal. Narasimha killed the king on his lap using his nails.  His lap is neither on earth nor in sky and his nails were not weapons.

The painter expresses his anguish at the demolition of Babri Masjid by showing this mythological episode in the reverse. Here, the Demon is shown killing the devotee, the son of the king, rather than the king. The evil of the demon is displayed by the word, Mara, which is written on his forehead. This word depicts his evil nature in opposition to the righteous values of God, Ram.

rammara

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Thank you, Shri, for sharing your response to Manjit Bawa’s work with us!

Are you familiar with the story Shri relates? What do you see when you look at this painting?

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The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 is on at the AGM until October 19. http://artgalleryofmississauga.com

AGM Book Project | Programming

How has the Art Gallery of Mississauga developed since its creation in 1987, and how does it continue to grow? AGM intern Alexandra Hartstone has been hard at work at creating a book that documents the past 27 years, and looks forward to future of the institution. In this post, she takes a look at programming at the AGM, particularly Camille Turner’s (un)settler community journal project, which aims to document the hidden histories of the city, through the voices of its residents.

Programming
Alexandra Hartstone, Curatorial Intern | Special Projects – Georgian College

Artist in Residence Camille Turner shares the (un)settler journals with Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion

Artist in Residence Camille Turner shares the (un)settler journals with Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion

Programming and events at the AGM are not only actively setting in motion the Gallery’s mandate of bringing art to the community and the community to art, but also finding clever ways of doing so. Through new initiatives and focus, the philosophy for programming, based around: engage, think, inspire, is a means to support artists while connecting communities in interesting and thought-provoking ways. With the theme of 2014 as the role of the artist, the Art Gallery of Mississauga has brought forward contemporary and introspective exhibitions supported by programming that brings together artists and communities with platforms for activism, discussion and learning.

In 2013, the AGM launched its first-ever artist in residence programme with Camille Turner. The programme is intended to activate the Gallery’s mandate and support initiatives surrounding the role of the artist in a city layered with diversity and culture. (un)settler, Turner’s ongoing collaborative, community-based journal project is circulating through the pockets and corners of Mississauga as a means to explore the many stories and voices of the city and its residents. Since it began, the project continues to make contact with new hands and grow, gaining momentum as it stitches together the social fabric of Mississauga while crafting a portrait of the identity of the great and diverse people living here. Investigating themes of identity, belonging and home, Turner’s (un)settler focuses on socially-based art practices as a way to connect with and make art accessible in a meaningful and untraditional way. A beautiful sample of how interactions between communities and artist inform one another, the project represents a great collaborative feat supporting new relationships and dialogues in the process of socially-based art making.

Page from an (un)settler journal

Page from an (un)settler journal

Built upon education and engagement, the AGM programming takes a hands-on approach as a platform to facilitate the discovery and interaction of visual cultures, the role of the artist, and community building. The Gallery positions itself as a cultural centre that supports collaboration and growth through its programming initiatives, which continue to address themes vital to the landscape of Mississauga and its residents. Along with every exhibition at the Art Gallery of Mississauga comes thought-provoking programming developed to cross all boundaries and engage with all participants. Get involved and join the movement!

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Thank you to Alexandra Hartstone, for this glimpse into AGM history, both distant history and the more recent past. We hope you enjoyed this foray into the rich past of Canada’s smallest — but mightiest! — public art gallery.

Sahmat | Programming Narrative

A guest post by Fareena Chanda, Special Projects – Engagement

Performance tent, installation. Art Gallery of Mississauga. Photo by Jag Gundu.

Performance tent, installation. Art Gallery of Mississauga. Photo by Jag Gundu.

The AGM’s current exhibit, The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 is both eye-opening and, for those from South Asia, a familiar touchstone. The exhibition explores the intersection between freedom of expression and art as activism, and the commonalities between the struggle for social justice in India in the 1980’s and 1990’s and global current events are striking. The breadth and passion on display in the exhibition is truly inspirational, and I encourage everyone to take the time to visit the show and grapple with its message.

Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Liberty Lost (G20, Toronto), 2010. Condé + Beveridge will be at the AGM's art and activism panel discussion August 26.

Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Liberty Lost (G20, Toronto), 2010. Condé + Beveridge will be at the AGM’s art and activism panel discussion August 26.

In addition to Sahmat, the AGM and I have been working on several unique experiences for its guests this summer.  On August 26th, Thinking Globally, Acting Locally – a panel discussion will take a critical look at the role of the artist collective and the relationship between art and activism from both a global and local perspective. On September 13th, The Public, an activist design studio will host a hands-on poster making workshop where they will share techniques on how to critically assess the works in the show and teach participants techniques to create their own political art print.

Register here for the poster making workshop by August 26.

In a summer where so much has gone on in the world, come join the AGM in exploring how art plays a role in social justice and creating a globally aware citizenry.

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The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 is organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and is on view at the AGM from July 24 – October 19, 2014. For more information on the exhibition and a full schedule of events, please visit artgalleryofmississauga.com.

Sahmat | Programming Partnerships

A guest post by Tina Chu, Engagement Officer

The AGM’s programming philosophy is informed by our mission and mandate. As guiding principles, our mandate to bring art to the community and the community to art, ensure our events operate on parallel tracks where they have a firm root in exhibitions while maintaining an awareness of the community.

Wheely Great Veggie Gardens, a joint project by  AGM and Ecosource, at C Cafe, Mississauga Celebration Square

Wheely Great Veggie Gardens, a joint project by AGM and Ecosource, at C Cafe, Mississauga Celebration Square

Examples in such Sahmat programming initiatives include our partnerships with Ecosource. Since July, the AGM has partnered with Ecosource to present two edible gardens at C Café. Just as the Sahmat Collective believes that art can propel change, artists and AGM staff are animating Ecosource’s two Wheely Great Veggie Gardens in the C Café to bring conversations of community gardens, local food and food security to a new context.

Not only do the Wheely Great Gardens provide fresh, local produce to the C Café, the AGM also connects with Mississauga Celebration Square festivals so Ecosource might deliver free Container Gardening Workshops for residents to learn about growing their own food. Inspired by Sahmat, Wheely Great demonstrates organizations working cross-secotirally and harmoniously to expand conversations on community gardens and bring issues of food security to a new conext.

TIMEANDDESIRE launch Dance Freely on Mississauga Celebration Square at Bollywood Monster Mashup 2014

TIMEANDDESIRE will launch Dance Freely on Mississauga Celebration Square at Bollywood Monster Mashup 2014

Finally, another example is our partnership with artist collective TIMEANDDESIRE and Bollywood Monster Mashup. With these distinct partners, the AGM is proud to co-present a Bollywood Monster Intervention. Here, TIMEANDDESIRE, much like Sahmat artists, will produce interventionist art work that interact with the public at street level and blends experiences of high art and street art for a unique , and open experience at Mississauga Celebration Square

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The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 is organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and is on view at the AGM from July 24 – October 19, 2014. For more information on the exhibition and a full schedule of events, please visit artgalleryofmississauga.com.

AGM Book Project | Permanent Collection

How has the Art Gallery of Mississauga developed since its creation in 1987, and how does it continue to grow? AGM intern Alexandra Hartstone has been hard at work at creating a book that documents the past 27 years, and looks forward to future of the institution. In this post, she offers a glimpse into the AGM’s Permanent Collection.

Permanent Collection
Alexandra Hartstone, Curatorial Intern | Special Projects – Georgian College

Representing approximately 140 Canadian and international artists, the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Mississauga boasts over 500 works with a unique focus on reflecting cultural diversity, and the inter-relationship between one’s own heritage and the ongoing definition of one’s culture from a contemporary perspective. The AGM collection offers audiences of all ages and interests a comprehensive hub to embrace, study, and contemplate contemporary projects and exhibitions.

Earlier this year, the Art Gallery of Mississauga completed a digitization project, processing its permanent collection with the intentions of facilitating an archival format online with the capacity to spread out and access a wider reach within Mississauga and beyond. In this post we investigate multimedia artist, Jeannie Thib and her linocut print series, Tabula.

Jeannie Thib, Tabula, 1993, 5 linocuts on mulberry paper, ink, 121 x 91 cm.

Jeannie Thib, Tabula, 1993, 5 linocuts on mulberry paper, ink, 121 x 91 cm.

A contemporary Canadian artist, Thib’s works explore a variety of media which are manipulated and constructed to investigate meanings of the body and the construction and fragmentation of maps, diagrams and instructions. Born in 1955 in North Bay, Ontario, Thib graduated from York University in 1979 with a BFA. Exhibited both on a national and international scale, the Art Gallery of Mississauga houses all five linocut prints in the Tabula series.

Five left-handed palms are printed on 121 x 91 cm panels of mulberry paper, branded with lines, contours, text, and shapes alluding to the nature of maps and reference guides. The series acts as “direct references to the body’s vulnerability in the natural environment”[i]. Treated as if landscapes, the palms transform into rich narratives, embedded with segments of line, drawing, and text each becoming precious objects which help to broaden the knowledge of the whole. Intricate in her process, these works have the power to draw in and envelop curious eyes into a labyrinth of line and visual fantasy.

[i] Reid, Stuart. “Dissection: Subtexts for Body Works”. Jeannie Thib: Body Works. Mississauga: Art Gallery of Mississauga, 1995. Print.

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Would you like to become involved in the future of the AGM’s Permanent Collection? The AGM has recently lifted its moratorium on collecting and is currently seeking volunteers from the community to participate in the process of selecting work to reanimate the Permanent Collection. Click here for more information, and download the application form here. Interviews will begin September 3. For enquiries, please contact Laura Carusi, Volunteer Coordinator and Curatorial Assistant, at laura.carusi@mississauga.ca.

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What else has Alexandra discovered in her research into the AGM archives? Stay tuned to this blog for a series of posts, every other Thursday, featuring images, stories and other exciting news from the rich past of Canada’s smallest — but mightiest! — public art gallery.

Sahmat | Art in Context

A guest post by Kendra Ainsworth, Assistant Curator

Photo by David Popplow

Photo by David Popplow

The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India Since 1989 is a novel exhibition for the AGM for a number of reasons. First, the AGM is the only Canadian stop for this noted touring show originated by the Smart Museum in Chicago, and second, it offers visitors the opportunity to engage with the idea that art is always part of a larger social context.

While the theme of art and activism in this show makes it very apparent, the notion that art is not created in a vacuum is not often in the forefront of public consciousness. When we think about art the immediate association is often with aesthetics or beauty, rather than the social, political or economic climate that gave rise to a particular form artistic expression. And yet most great art at the very least touches on just these kinds of important issues, and the work of the Sahmat collective is a great example of what can transpire when it does.

The context of Sahmat’s artistic work is illustrated in the exhibition by the breadth of materials –  not only is original art on view, but you also have the opportunity to see original articles and publications from the time of the collective’s inception alongside these early art projects. Video footage of their performances is complemented by interviews with artists and organizers. All of these aspects of the exhibition together provide an incredibly rich immersive experience for gallery visitors, one that is not only aesthetic but historical, philosophical and political.

We at the AGM hope that you come away from this exhibition with a respect for the power of art to reflect what is happening in our world, and if necessary, to make change.

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The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 is organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, and is on view at the Art Gallery of Mississauga from July 24 – October 19, 2014. For more information on the exhibition and a full schedule of events, please visit artgalleryofmississauga.com.

 

An Open Letter from Stuart Keeler, Director | Curator

IMG_0682The AGM is open and engaged to collaborate with the residents of Mississauga and beyond.

Currently, I want to hear from viewers, members and those with a history with the AGM, to learn how we can envision, plan and expand the Gallery.

This is the time.

If you are from Mississauga – and you did not know there was a Public Art Gallery in the Civic Centre (alas…a common tale!) we want to hear from you too!

The week of August 4 is chock full of talk, chatter and dialogue as the AGM launches its 3-5 year Strategic Plan with consultant Margaret Genovese with Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates.

If you have an idea, notion or grand scheme on how the AGM can move forward with the residents of Mississauga – please click here for the Strategic Plan Survey. Building upon past work of previous Board and staff, the AGM is poised to situate the next consultant study in January 2015 with the analysis of two possible locations in Mississauga for a new facility.

The AGM wants to hear from as many people as possible. To that end, a Member Survey has been circulated to our donors, and Community and In-Gallery Surveys have been activated this summer. The survey period will end in September to be followed by a series of roundtable conversations on the AGM.

My message is constant and consistent: The AGM believes that the role of the artist is a compelling link to youth, seniors and families, with innovative exhibition and education projects in the communities of our city. A flourishing artist community needs resources to grow and stay vital; therefore, the AGM is committed to foster new compelling programmes and exhibitions to capture and inspire thinking and civic dialogue.

We want to hear from you! Please contact the Gallery at agm.connect@mississauga.ca or 905 896 5088.

Click here for the Strategic Plan Survey

Stuart Keeler
Director | Curator
Art Gallery of Mississauga