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Ancestors from another world

Updated on: 17 February,2022 08:59 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Tanishka D’Lyma |

A show at Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation lets viewers step into a fictional post-human future world to examine their own existence

Ancestors from another world

Gallery view of Ancestors. Pic Courtesy/The Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai

We are a storytelling civilisation where oral or written narratives, or those formed through artefacts left behind, communicate the collective memories of a people.  And so in Sahej Rahal’s Ancestors, storytelling takes various shapes, becoming an integral part of the artist’s world. The museum walls of the exhibition take on the skin of an archaeological tomb site. When you enter, you encounter fictionalised excavated relics of an imagined world. As you progress, you move through the archive of artefacts from terracotta installations, through ink paintings and texts, and finally an interactive AI programme. Puja Vaish, curator of the exhibition, says, “[The museum] becomes a site for building stories that describe the world, its inhabitants and its belief systems, through a consideration of the ecological, human and digital imprints that are left behind.”

Sahej Rahal and Puja Vaish
Sahej Rahal and Puja Vaish

There’s no doubt that from Rahal’s muses of mythology, local legends, and science fiction come an otherworldly landscape and civilisation that mimic our own, but also question the views that shape our world. Vaish notes, “The exhibition is an invitation to interrogate present-day fables that drive our conscience, through a critical re-looking of our relationship with the earth and its human, non-human and digital existences.”

Myths demand a suspension of disbelief, Rahal tells us. And so, to fully enter the world of Ancestors, the approach is the same. He says, “[My work] encourages the viewer to collectively imagine an unfolding mythology. So, it becomes a game where we bring our own memories, desires, and subjectivities to reconstruct the objects that are in front of us.” 

 The show is being organised as part of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya’s centenary year celebrations. Vaish explains that Ancestors is a collection of Rahal’s pieces that resonate with the underpinnings of the museum. Rahal was the recipient of the first Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation (SSAF) Installation Art Grant in 2019, and he adds that this project was possible with support from SSAF and Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation.

On: February 19 to May 8 
At: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Fort.
Cost: Rs 100 (adults), Rs 30 (children below 15 years)

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