Nalini Malani: Bodies in pain
At thirteen metres across, Nalini Malani’s Mother India: Transactions in the construction of pain, 2005, is physically overwhelming. The five screens of this video installation are arranged in a semi-circle that surrounds the body, dominating one’s field of vision. They show archival footage – of women spinning, flags converging on the face of Gandhi, people flooding across borders and religious iconography – alongside more recent allegorical imagery including a young woman superimposed over a map of India and Pakistan. Having opened with images from the time of the 1947 Partition of India, the work closes with pictures of the destroyed landscape of Gujarat in 2002 when many Muslims and Hindus were killed following racial riots in western India.
With such politically charged sequences concerning violence against women, past and present, Mother India constitutes a major work by an artist who grapples with history in many different forms. Where Malani has often portrayed mythological women from both western and Indian literature (such as Euripides’s Medea and the Hindu goddess Sita), Mother India depicts both anonymous and allegorical female figures, representing the estimated 100,000 Indian and Pakistani women who were caught up in the Partition and its aftershocks.This article appears in excerpted form. You can read the entire article in Art &Australia's Autumn 2012 issue.
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