4 – Faith, Fashion, Fairy Tales: Contemporary South Asian Art and the Gender Revolution
NEW – Course 4
Dr Zehra Jumabhoy
Summer School – Online
Monday 7 – Friday 11 June 2021
Encompassing ‘virtual visits’ to studios, exhibitions and collections, this course will re-dress definitions of femininity, masculinity and the in-between in contemporary South Asian art – as well as trace their intersection with Britain’s Imperial past. It will also look at how conventional notions of gender have been re-vamped by artists in South Asia and its diasporas. The idea of the ‘demure’ South Asian woman haunts the popular imagination; both in the ‘East’ and the ‘West’; in (art) history and contemporary fashion. Alternatively covered up (behind the veil) or exposed as a sexy fetish for an Orientalizing male gaze, she is de-nuded of agency. In fact, such stereotypes notwithstanding, the Indian and Pakistani artworlds are dominated by women artists, collectors, gallerists and theorists – who are adept at subverting the idea of the submissive ‘subaltern’ Self.
While the first session will discuss the British Raj’s de-masculinization of the South Asian male body, lectures will go on to explore how Indian and Pakistani artists riff on (and traverse) gender roles. We will encounter artworks as diverse as the miniature-inspired offerings of Pakistani New Yorker Shahzia Sikander, the cartographic ruminations of the late ‘diasporic’ print-maker Zarina Hashmi, Indian Nalini Malani’s video-shadow plays, governed by powerful female protagonists, and Chitra Ganesh’s feminist, hot pink-infused re-imaginings of Hindu mythology. Fashion-centered fun will ensue as we scrutinize ‘British’ Bharti Kher’s bindi-covered ‘Goddesses’ (one of whom has found her way into the British Museum’s Tantra exhibition), London-based Sutapa Biswas’ Kali-impersonating housewife (wielding a steak-knife) and ‘American’ Rina Banerjee’s iridescent mixed media fabrications, festooned with frills and feathers. Kashmiri Raqib Shaw’s bejeweled, painted hybrids, which dominate his paintings and sculptures, will get a look in too.
Dr Zehra Jumabhoy is an UK-based art historian, curator and writer specialising in modern and contemporary South Asian art. She was the Steven and Elena Heinz Scholar at The Courtauld, London, where she completed her doctorate and continues to be an Associate Lecturer. She curated British artist Yinka Shonibare’s site-specific installation, Justice for All, at Singapore’s Old Parliament House (January 2020) to coincide with the Singapore Biennale. Zehra has just been awarded the prestigious Curatorial Research Grant by The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art for 2021/22. This Grant facilitates the exhibition Imperial Subjects: (Post)Colonial Encounters between South Asia and Britain, scheduled for Swansea’s Glynn Vivian museum in 2022.