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Amanullah’s tryst with India

Archaeology has become a tool of interactive art for Afghan artist Amanullah Mojadidi, who is working on a multi-media land installation art at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale beginning from 12 December.

Amanullah has replicated an archaeological dig – on an 8 X 10 sq ft plot of land – at the Aspinwall House, a colonial relic in the historic quarters of Fort Kochi by the harbour to explore the threads between migration, dislocation, subversion of history through archaeological manipulations and clash of Sufi and Sunni Islam.

Amanullah, 41, who was born in Jacksonville in the US, works from Kabul where he campaigns for freedom through his art. He shows his works around the world.

One of his installations, 'Jihadi Gangster' – a series of photographs about a day in the life of a 'neo-jihadi' – shot at a bling art performance last year ran into trouble with the authorities.

The series emerges from the conflict between civil society that is trying to rebuild the new Afghanistan and the hardline fundamentalists still at work.In his homeland, Amanullah has been received with critical acclaim for his radical post-modern and conceptual art that draws from the current social realities of Afghanistan.

The installation at the Kochi Biennale is essentially a series of earth patterns, made of a trench – a shallow horizontal mud basin hosting the remains of a home supposedly belonging to an 'exiled Afghan businessman'. A camp office next to the dig – made of tin and mud – serves as the node through which information is disseminated to reach the viewers through a human liaison, who is the official tour-guide.

The guide anchors the landscape and is the interactive element of the project. Few odd specimens of ancient Chinese pottery shards on display gives temporal specificity to the venue – which dates back to the early Jewish migration to Kerala a millennium ago.

The home and its occupant are the leading characters of a fictional narrative – a story-telling device that Amanullah has used to lend fleshy substance to his abstract concept.

'I am a student of cultural anthropology and archaeology and not fine arts, but I use my fields of study as art. Basically, I am trying to interpret and challenge history through an archaeological excavation in installation in Kochi,' Amanullah said.

The artist said he was trying to connect the personal migration history of his family to that of Indian migration history 'with a mosaic of facts and narrative imagination'. (IANS)
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