Featuring film, photography and sculpture, this free exhibition centres on collective memory, time, place and belonging; complicating accepted historical linearity and placing two worlds in parallel entanglement, taking the viewer on a journey to re-read illegible stories and glimpse at geographies other than their own.
Immediately after independence in August 1947, the government of Pakistan began the long process that would, over the next few decades, modify street names, discard memorials, reshape cultural markers, revise school textbooks, weekends, architecture, law and language. To heal the deep wounds of partition, and in a hurry to distance itself from anything un-Islamic, centuries of syncretic cultural and religious rituals were slowly stripped away and transformed into collective memory. In 1962, Ayub Khan’s military government dismantled ‘Malika Victoria’, dispersing the many components of the memorial to the Imperial Queen, which eventually found their way across the city. The marble and bronze monument was originally commissioned to the sculptor Sir Hamo Thornycroft, and inaugurated in 1906, by George V at Frere Hall, Karachi.
Growing up in Karachi, Mulji navigated her way between the disembodied heads and limbs of discarded statues, in the back corridors of Mohatta Palace, then the abandoned home of Fatima Jinnah. In an article in The Herald magazine from 1994, she came across a vivid description of a pedestal outside the Karachi Municipal Corporation Headquarters. Like any city bench, it was found variously occupied by loungers, eating or waiting; cats devouring leftover food and crows and kites swooping down, after the last morsels. No-one knew or cared that this was the plinth where once stood the imposing marble statue of the former Empress of India. This year, Huma Mulji journeyed back to Karachi to find this plinth and in the process, stumbled upon other fragments of the memorial.
The title of the exhibition is intended to be both erotic and intrusive, with desire and repulsion simultaneously at play. It suggests violence and discomfort, alluding to Pakistan’s complicated relationship with its past; and how history plays out in the present. Mulji brings together this fragmented architecture, obscured by a collective forgetting and a narrative where the city is the only protagonist.
Huma Mulji is based in Bristol with a studio at Spike Island. Alongside her practice she teaches BA (Hons) Fine Art at UWE Bristol, and was previously a Lecturer in Fine Art at Arts University Plymouth. Her work centres on observing the everyday within urban geographies, particularly across South Asia. She is interested in telling the story of a nebulous combination of the dysfunctional, the heroic, the sorrowful and the resilient. Mulji works across media with a focus on sculpture, installation and photography and is represented by Project88, Mumbai.
Huma Mulji is one of two artists selected for the South West Showcase (SWS) 2022. SWS is a recurring open call platform, established in 2013, showcasing artists from across the South West region. The showcase aims to support artists working and living in the South West through a year-long programme of mentoring and support with an exhibition outcome; presenting a long-term commitment to profiling and supporting the practices of artists in this region.
The panel of artists, curators and academics who selected the two South West Showcase 2022 artists consisted of Turner prize-winning artist Helen Cammock, Zoe Watson, curator at The Lowry (previously The Holden Gallery), artist Mohini Chandra and Rosie Mills Eckmire, Head of Learning at Turf Projects. They were joined by Arts University Plymouth academics Stephen Felmingham, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Stephanie Owens, Head of School of Arts + Media, as well as Hannah Rose, Curator at MIRROR.
Your Tongue in My Mouth
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