An art exhibition in Perth, Western Australia, has opened doors for the community to take a fresh look at the psychological trauma that had resulted from the traumatic division of the subcontinent, by confronting historically contested narratives.

The exhibition named, “I Don’t Want to be There When it Happens” is organised in tribute to the 70th anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan by the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) from 11 November – 24 December 2017.

The largest known human exodus happened from the split off of Pakistan from the former British Indian Empire in 1947. The partition of India and Pakistan triggered a wave of bloodletting. More than 15 million people fled from one side to the other, and nearly one million were killed in an explosion of sectarian hatred.

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‘I don’t want to be there when it happens’ tackles a sensitive topic that has received little attention from the art world in the six decades since partition.

On asking how Art can help bring acceptance and a change in understanding toward the differences created by the partition, Senior Curator Eugenio Viola told Australasian Muslim Times,

“The whole project aims to re-affirm the co-existence of all possible differences. Bringing together different perspectives by using the space for dialogue through conscious acts of engagement serves as an opportunity to build bridges instead of borders.

For my curatorial debut here in Australia, I wanted to react to some of the most complex circumstances present in the world today. Particularly the re-emergence of religious extremism, prejudice & discrimination against national minorities.”

This exhibition is organised in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Sydney and it features artists from both Pakistan and India whose evocative artwork explore the historic legacy of both the countries and acknowledge the fragility of the relations between India and Pakistan.

Mr Viola enthusiastically informed us about the magnificence of the work displayed at the exhibition. He remains hopeful that the take-away message from the exhibition would be to reinforce shared humanity-  the idea that it’s through art we can bind communities via a mutual sense of empathy and support for one another.

Adeela Suleman’s elegant hand-beaten chandelier, that ubiquitous dead bird motifs subtly recall suicide bombings in Pakistan, Abdullah Syed’s disquieting installation of suspended drones made of razor blades. Raj Kumar’s prayer mats are made of thousands of large dice, displayed to recall the architectural magnificence of mosques or cathedrals.

It is heartening to see the creation of a unique platform that is unafraid to commemorate such a complicated event in history and throw the light in on religious and political divides in hopes to reconfigure peace and tolerance amidst the tragic recollection of partition.