Notes on Migration
Exhibition by Jyothidas K V & Sarojini Lewis
Dates 14-04-2017 to 20-05-2017, opening 13th April 6.30 onwards
Clark House Initiative Project Room
How many breaths have we counted?
As many as waves of the sea
As many as sands of the shore
Dark clouds, storms, waves, fevers, winds
The unending sounds of the seas
Frothed in our mouths was salt,
Expanse of the sea and sweat
With the land which appeared
After the never ending sea,
Upon which they built us
A new belief
Sea, land, relief, belief
Certain memories of migration transcend the border of nations and geographical distances. In particular, the narrative of indentured labour migration from various regions of India. Contract workers were recruited largely from UP and Bihar during colonial period from the mid 18th century until its abolition around 1917, a hundred years ago. Surinam was one destination colony ruled by the Dutch where a ‘multicultural society’ was constructed by means of various migration streams that were brought in according to the required skills of laborers. The memories that people brought from various countries to Surinam remains in oral traditions, stories, literature and archives and form resources that we explored for new interpretations. A memory as such is not bound to one geographical location but could exist simultaneously in various locations or meeting points.
Close to the city of Dresden in Germany there is an almost forgotten ethnological museum in a village called Herrnhut. Archival Photographs and objects from the archives of Herrnhut missionaries in Germany documented the migration in early 20th century in Surinam. Besides the photographs a set of objects presented the Indian community of Surinam. The missionaries returned this material to Herrnhut accompanied by different diaries describing the live of Hindustanis. The personal encounter of this collection and the act of holding the objects and while documenting, resulted in a series of self-portraits. Here identity is linked to various histories and geographies of migration in a playful meeting between body and object. What does it mean to have the same migration roots as the object?
Questionable is the origin of these objects and whether they made the same migration as the Indian community that migrated. The veil held by the curator of the museum also connects to the photograph of the woman who is wearing a similar veil in Iran. This could be displaced in the collection and its possible misinterpretation leads to the idea that sources of objects could be beyond the interpretation of memories of migration.
Another set of memories come from a year long migration as a teenager to a Bhojpuri speaking village near Mariyahu in Jaunpur, U.P. Memories of evening walks through the expanses of sugarcane fields and the huts where farmers used to make jaggery remain vivid images. Sugarcane and the know-how of its farming was one of the reasons for recruitment of indentured labour from the region 120 years ago.
We are connecting personal memories with the larger history of migration to see how these memories have cross overs. This collaboration intends to simulate a ‘melting pot’ in which we reinterpret these transnational character of memories.