Jameel Arts Center’s “Proposals for a Partition Memorial” Revisit South Asia


This composition is titled A Border Takedown Party.

Mohammad Yusuf, Feature Writer

Art Jameel presents ‘Proposals for a Memorial to Partition’ (June 18 – February 19, 2023) at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s museum of contemporary art. The collective exhibition, curated by Murtaza Vali, brings together the proposals of 20 artists and writers who revisit the traumatic changes that have produced the modern nation-states of South Asia. The diverse exhibition includes a wide range of media, from text, drawing and painting to installation, models, video and audio, bringing a poetic and speculative look at a moment in history which cannot be limited by definition. ‘Proposals’ is accompanied by a public program of lectures, seminars, films and various learning opportunities for all ages, during its eight-month duration.

The exhibition presents for the first time recognized artists and emerging voices in the Middle East: Bani Abidi, Saira Ansari, Hemali Bhuta, Fahd Burki, CAMP, Abhijan Toto, Fileona Dkhar and Pujita Guha for the Forest Curriculum, Shilpa Gupta, Faiza Hasan, Aziz Hazara, Karachi LaJamia (Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani), Shreyas Karle, Amitava Kumar, Pak Khawateen Painting Club, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Fazal Rizvi, Seher Shah, Omer Wasim and Nabla Yahya; with new commissions from Faiza Hasan, Fazal Rizvi and Omer Wasim.


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First-hand witnesses to events that began 75 years ago are rapidly dwindling; the exhibition acts as a repository, bringing together stories and ideas in an ever-changing process of memorialization.

In the aftermath of British colonial rule, a few crucial weeks in 1947 set in motion complex and still unresolved processes of displacement, fragmentation, conflict and nation-building that spanned decades and continue to deeply mark societies and the peoples of the subcontinent.

The exhibition undertakes the perhaps unfeasible task of imagining monuments to an event with many conflicting interpretations.

Murtaza Vali is a critic, curator and art historian.

Most of the artists’ proposals suggest the impossibility of a single monument or a unifying story: they tend to offer delicate, informal, playful and often collective looks at history and memory.

To take two examples: Berlin- and Kabul-based artist Hazara, winner of the 2021 Future Generation Art Prize, has produced photographs that reference the kinds of games played by the Baloch and Pashtun communities waiting to cross the highly militarized and arbitrary borders that divide them.

The ongoing participatory work of renowned Mumbai-based artist Gupta invites over 100 people to draw a map of their country from memory; their fragile accumulation highlights the mutability of borders and national affiliations.

‘Proposals’ also takes an accumulative approach, where new proposals are presented alongside previous ones, translated from English into Bengali, Hindi, Kannada and Urdu, and scattered throughout the exhibition.

Eleven years after their first submissions, artists Shah and Gupta have brought new proposals, reflecting on a changing political landscape and new avenues in their own artistic practices.

Sharjah-born, New York-based curator and writer Vali, a regular contributor to the Art Jameel programs and curator of the Jameel Arts Center’s inaugural 2018 exhibition ‘Crude’, launched the project in 2011 as part of a series of publications commissioned by the Sharjah Biennale. 10 under the title Manual for Treason and included submissions from artists Fahd Burki, Shezad Dawood, Shilpa Gupta, Nalini Malani, Yamini Nayar and Seher Shah.

Also a critic and art historian, his current research interests include materialist art histories, eccentric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, the weight of color and contemporary art. of the Indian Ocean coastline.

He is assistant curator at the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai and guest instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He is also the main tutor of Campus Art Dubai and the main mentor for the Hayy Scholarship: Learning Curatorial.

His long-running publications include: A ‘Real Allegory’ of Manual Labor in the Age of Global Capital, published in di’van/A Journal of Accounts, Sydney (2020) and Lost Horizons: Revisiting CAMP’s Indian Ocean Projects in the accompanying book March 2021 meeting, Sharjah Art Foundation.

He received the Creative Capital|Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing (2011) and Lori Ledis Curatorial Fellowship (2010) and served on the selection panel for the Sharjah Art Foundation Production Program Grants (2010) . Vali earned an MFA in Art History and Archeology from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts (2004).

Known as Dubai’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jameel Arts Center features curated solo and group exhibitions drawn from both the Art Jameel Collection and regional and international collaborations.

Current exhibitions include ‘Fahd Burki: Daydreams’, ‘Taus Makhacheva: A Space of Celebration’, ‘Library Circles: Salma Serry’ and Artist’s Garden ‘Desert is a Forest’ by Sunoj D and Namrata Neog. The Center is a multidisciplinary space of 10,000 square meters on three floors, designed by the British firm Serie Architects. The building is punctuated by seven gardens, designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel, which reflect local and global desert biomes. Next door is the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, designed by waiwai, and a collaboration between Art Jameel and Dubai Holding. Admission to the park, gardens, exhibitions and library is free; all ages are welcome. Located near the creek in Dubai’s Jaddaf Waterfront district, the Jameel Galleries are complemented by the Jameel Library, an open-access research center dedicated to artists and cultural movements in the Gulf States and beyond.

The Jameel also includes project and commission spaces, a writer’s studio, a seasonal artisan catering concept “Teible” and the Art Jameel boutique. The Jameel serves as a hub for educational and research initiatives for diverse audiences. Its broader programming encompasses partnerships with local, regional and international artists, curators and organizations.


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