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Indian and African Artists to fight against Racial Discrimination through Photography Exhibition

Indo-Caribbean artist Andrew Ananda Voogel centres his work around the indentured labour trade from India to the Caribbean

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Street protest on Racism. Flickr
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September 24, 2016: “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”- Abraham Joshua Heschele

Indian and African artists will showcase through their work the issues of racial discrimination and cultural identity in “Coriolis Effect: Migration and Memory”. The intimate moments in the lives of the African community living in India will be put up at an upcoming photography to sensitize the public against racial discrimination and biasness from September 29 to October 4 at Khoj Studio.

The exhibition is the culmination of a month-long residency that seeks to rekindle the social, economic and cultural relationship which exists between India and Africa.

“We have been deeply contemplating migration. Globally, we have borne witness to the forced displacement of thousands of people from their homelands and locally we have first-hand experienced the trauma of re-location,” said Khoj Studios curator Sitara Chowfla.

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“We are also extremely interested in the formation of memory due to this migration – both individual and collective. We have invited artists to look back at the past and comprehend the present. What happens to your identity when you lose your place of belonging? What are memories of home and place that you carry with you,” she questioned.

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The participating artists are Mahesh Shantaram, Andrew Ananda Voogel, Chibuike Uzoma, Joao Orecchia, Liza Grobler, Malini Kochupillai and Swati Janu. The critic-in-residence is Persis Taraporevala.

An independent documentary maker, Mahesh Shantaram, 39, is showing a collection of 10 photographs titled “Looking at You Looking at Me: The African Portraits”.

“It’s as if they don’t accept us as human beings … is what I keep hearing amidst all the heart rending stories,” Shantaram said.

Indo-Caribbean artist Andrew Ananda Voogel centres his work around the indentured labour trade from India to the Caribbean.

After the gradual abolition of the African slave trade, the search for cheap labour had spread across India, from where many men and women, including Voogel’s ancestors, were separated from their families and forcibly herded into ships leaving for Guyana and other colonies.

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Unable to return, these workers eventually forged hybrid communities in their new homes. Memories of their violent departure and exile form an important part of Voogel’s work.

“I have worked on a text and textile based project where pieces of different textiles will be printed with phrases that highlight issues of discrimination. I got these phrases from various African people that I have spoken to and also from newspaper reports, and from my own personal history of multi-generational trauma,” Voogel said.

Nigerian artist Chibuike Uzoma has tried to look beyond a literal interpretation of the subject.

In 2014, he left Africa for the first time to take up a residency opportunity in Vienna. This led him to kick-start a multi-media project titled “West to the Horn is the Heart” which incorporated sound, stamps and images in a bid to understand and accept where he was.

He is also exhibiting six photographs taken on the streets of Old Delhi that showcase him walking around like a tourist.

“I don’t feel so lost in India because of the similarities between our two nations,” he said.

The multi-media project is intended to assert his condition of mixed and intertwined thought, hope, choice, expectation, anxiety, joy and shame. (IANS)

 

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Next Story

Why should we talk about Race?

Dr Kumar Mahabir, an anthropologist, brings out the topic of discrimination

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Race has always been a big deal whenever its been spoken about around the globe.
Race has always been a big deal whenever its been spoken about around the globe. Pic by Dr. Munish Raizada taken at the Race exhibition at Chicago History Museum. November 2017
-By Dr Kumar Mahabir
Even academics like me who often view certain topics through the lens of race sometimes
receive negative attention and judgement. Some people feel that speaking or writing
rationally about race is counter-productive and even racist.
Indo-Caribbean people (Indians), in particular, tend to receive condemnation when they
examine topics on the basis of race. Indian victims are often criticised for reporting
discrimination.
On the other hand, Afro-Caribbeans (Africans) receive either indifference or praise when they discuss race. For example, the following comment by a black calypsonian, published in a Trinidad national newspaper, drew praises: “In the midst of black consciousness in the 1970s, Bro Superior told black people ‘No matter where yuh born, Yuh still African’” (Guardian Nov 12, 2017).
Discussing race objectively with empirical data and statistical evidence is not racist. Racism
is the belief that another race of people is inferior. This attitude results in discrimination,
antagonism and domination individually, politically, economically and otherwise.
Race, ethnicity, class, sex, religion, nationality, geography, etc. are valid, legitimate and
appropriate social categories of difference in examining historical and contemporary issues.
Why should someone who talks objectively about race be criticised as a racist? Should we
also condemn someone who uses sex as a mode of inquiry as being sexist? To do so would be ignorant, biased and unfair.
In a recent public broadcast, the Prime Minister of multi-racial Trinidad and Tobago (T&T)
advised some citizens “not to see race in everything we do” (Express Sept 22, 2017). This ill- informed statement was made in relation to the mixed responses he received when he
appealed to citizens to open their homes to displaced Dominican refugees who were devastated by Hurricane Maria.
On the contrary, people should be encouraged to “see race” as well as sex (gender), class, nationality, geography and types of social identity. Studying race can reveal differences in the form of disparities, disadvantages, inequalities, power and privilege which have structured human life in the past and present. To overlook race would be to ignore the elephant in the room.
Criminologist and social psychologist Dr Ramesh Deosaran wrote a book entitled Inequality,
Crime & Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Removing the Masks (2016). He found that there was a toxic relationship among race, class, gender, family and geography, resulting in African students performing the worst in the education system.
Deosaran wrote: “Wittingly or unwittingly, the education system, to a large extent, becomes a racially segregated system. And with academic achievement also stratified by race” (page 163). His data showed that while 47% of African students went to university three years after secondary school, as much as 72% of Indians did so, and 49% of the Mixed group also attended.
Prospective students of Whitman College in the USA are encouraged to enrol in its Race and Ethnic Studies programme. They are told that “ideas about race and ethnicity have been central at many points in world history and remain salient today, whether we talk about ethnic pride or ethnic cleansing, about multicultural diversity or racial discrimination.”
Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably. However, race refers to biological features (bone structure, facial features, hair texture, skin colour, etc.) and ethnicity denotes cultural traits (history, customs, religion, family-type, values, music, food, etc.).
In the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) CSEC Social Studies syllabus, Section A
(Individual, Family and Society) comprises of a content section that explains characteristics
of the population. These characteristics include age, sex, occupation, religion and ethnicity. In the CXC CAPE Sociology syllabus under Unit 1, Module 3, Social Stratification is
conceptualised according to status mobility, gender, class, colour, caste, race and ethnicity.
The topic of race and ethnicity is studied not only in sociology but also in history,
anthropology, cultural studies, visual culture, media, literature, communication, law, health,
human rights, gender, political science, economics, geography, public policy, international
relations, social psychology, etc.
In a research paper entitled “Understanding race and crime in Trinidad and Tobago,”
criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad (2017) found that most of the murderers, victims, accused and prisoners are Africans. His disaggregated data demonstrated that most of the violent crimes are committed by blacks against blacks.
In 2011, former National Security Minister John Sandy said, “We must recognise that it is
people looking like me who are being murdered, mothers like my mother, God rest her soul, who are out there weeping more than any other race” (Express Sep 3, 2011).
Race has always been a major factor in voting in all general elections in T&T. This form of
ethnic polarisation has been well documented by pollsters such as SARA, NACTA, ANSA
McAl and H.H.B. & Associates Ltd. Most Africans and Mixed persons support the PNM
while most Indians vote for the PP/UNC.
 
Dr. Kumar Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 11 books. He lives in Trinidad.