আমি উদ্বাস্তু নই (I am not a refugee) I & II
Paper weaving with archival print on
Innova smooth cotton high white 100% cotton 315 gsm
Fourdrinier acid free, archival museum quality paper
63.7 x 57.4 in. (162 x 146 cm.) approx.
Ami Utvastu Noi, which means I am not a refugee, in my mother tongue Bengali, revisits the space of language, longing and anxiety of a person haunted by the history of displacement and migration. My process involves staged photography and mise-en-scène that revisit undocumented moments from her familial past. And then adopting paper weaving as a medium to explore the theme in this work.
(I am not a refugee) II is one of two works where the central image and story revolves around my grandparents. In this particular work, I enact the character of my paternal grandmother Sabita Rani Akhanda. Dresses up in my grandmother's white saree in the traditional āāt poure (eightfold) style, posing in front of barbed wire mimicking fenced border landscapes. I used this photographic image as the primary warp, wefting it with the map of river Padma that my grandmother had crossed as a refugee fleeing from Barishal (present-day Bangladesh) to Kolkata, West Bengal, during the partition of India. The title of the work I am not a refugee is woven in Bengali text in the top centre border of this large paper tapestry, which also shows motifs taken from my grandmother's sarees. The central image is framed by a weaving of river maps of Odisha that demarcate the region where Sabita Rani finally settled after years of travelling in search of a place to call home. This frame or border also resembles chatai or reed mats traditionally used for the floor. Further referencing Sabita Rani's interest in stitching and signing her textile pieces with place and date, I weaved in Borisal in Bengali and Cuttack in Oriya at the base of the work, marking the cities where Sabita Rani was born and passed away.