In-Between Spaces: Resettling Reminiscences of 1947 Partition of Indian subcontinent through Five Rivers: A Portrait of Partition

Staged inside a shamiyana (tent-house), the video-installation Five Rivers: A Portrait of Partition, a documentary in cyclorama by Sheba Remy Kharbanda and William Charles ‘Chuck’ Moss narrates Amrik Singh’s personal account of the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The Partition Scholarship is largely divided into the narratives based on ‘high politics’ and ‘voices from below’. Seemingly, the urgency of political survival – on both sides of the border, India and Pakistan – stifles demand to acknowledge the genocidal violence which has caused moments of rupture in the history of subcontinent’s Independence. Shifting away from the discourses embellished with exclusive political immediacy, the subaltern develops an alternative language to reincarnate the pain of dislocation and disassociation under the canopy of conflagration of communities. The article focuses on the subaltern representation of the Partition of the subcontinent by the diasporic artist, Sheba, third generation vis-à-vis Partition. The discussion shows how the video-installation, set against the aesthetics of photo-montage, literary verses and socio-political valency of history, brings novel understandings to deviations and delineations about the memory of historical trauma. Critically investigating the performative use of public space as the moving architectural settings in the shape of shamiyana, the discussion opens multiple perspectives shared between artist and audience. The article is an attempt to juxtapose the notions of displacement and identity politics with vocabulary of visual aesthetics in order to add new meaning to the critical understanding of historicity of conflict and memory narratives.

Dilpreet Bhullar
South Asian Popular Culture