An art exhibition is on display in Kashmir from 23 June to 1 July 2018 in an effort to bring local Hindu and Muslim communities together.
Promoting reconciliation, the joint Muslim and Hindu collaboration brought together over 60 contemporary Muslim and Hindu artists in a gallery which reflected the depth of conflict suffered by the region.
The event was held at the 101-year-old decaying and dilapidated silk mill of Kashmir in an effort to revive harmony between Kashmir’s discordant communities.
The Kashmir conflict is one of many long-standing territorial disputes which began since the partition of India in 1947. Rich in natural resources, both India and Pakistan have made claims to the disputed region. Today, amongst the tussle for power, the Kashmiri people who have suffered gravely from these two warring states continue to demand for self-determination and autonomy.
One particular art piece was a self-portrait by artist Chushool Mahaldar titled ‘Struggling Smile’ displaying a naked man coiled in barbed wire with a single sacred thread strung across his torso used to indicate that the man is of Kashmiri Hindu origin.
He wears a defiant smile in what was one of the most confronting artistic images presented to the exhibition.
“This is the story of the common man in Kashmir – whether they are Muslim or Hindu,” said the artist Chushool Mahaldar.
Organiser Mujtaba Rizvi explained the role of the exhibition aims to encourage dialogue.
“Art is dialogue and conversation about difficult subjects,” he said.
“A lot of barriers and misconception were removed…(and) art can become a medium of social intervention.” said Mr Rizvi.
Whilst right in the centre of the exhibition, one installation model created by refugee artist Mr Munshi features various spinning objects used to describe how Kashmir has been turned upside down in recent times.
“It portrays how difficult it is to come out of conflict once you are in it,” said Mr Munshi.
Another piece at the entrance to the exhibition displays a 9.1-metre long painting by Mamoon Ahmad of ink drawing depicts a forest in which you see bones and trees. The dark piece references to life amid death.
Inspired by the Urdu word ruveda, which means to “walk gently” the artist describes the piece as the raw struggle and difficulty of bridging gaps between Hindu and Muslim communities.
The art exhibition has received remarkable community feedback; helping to strike an emotional chord with locals.
“Only art has the power to build bridges between communities,” said the historian Ratan Parimoo.
Expressing her passion for the art exhibition, local art student Saiba Khan said that the exhibition is an important one for locals to see.
“It is heart-wrenching,” nevertheless, she said that the exhibition from start-to-finish was a “complete” experience.