A little before 1990, it was all about the insouciant life for artist Veer Munshi, but the years after it, turned into a life of endless drudgery towards survival, when he was forced into exile from Kashmir. Since then, through the strokes of his brush, he has furiously and ferociously painted his turmoil. Some of his powerful imageries are seen in Carrying Roots Around, an exhibition that looks at how artists protect their root of creativity to project them authentically.
Back in the day, Munshi exemplified the freewheeling spirit of a little boy who ran carelessly through his paddy fields and fruit orchards in south Kashmir. “We lived in the lap of majestic beauty and mysticism. I grew up at the time when Kashmir had a renaissance in art and culture. Radio, theatre, music, art, literature, poetry and intellectual discourses where at its peak,” he recalls. But the clock turned the hour and brought on misery for a lifetime for him and scores of Kashmiri Pandits like him.
The Fallen House, serenity of desolation is a powerful statement in the direction. This replica of a traditional Kashmiri fallen house has drawings and videos depicting the tragedy of the August 2014 floods.
The Pandit Houses is a photographic work showing the vanishing Kashmiri Pandit minorities from the life of the Valley. “These are being replaced by new commercial structures that has changed its historical cultural significance. This is where the role of art activism takes place, to build consciousness of people around to plead the government to declare these 200-year-old houses as heritage sights,” says the artist.
The Shrapnel series is another body of works born out of the experience of Munshi being caught between stone pelting on the one side and security forces on the other, near Shiraz Cinema, Rainawari, in the violence of 2010. “I saw the city in a shambles and chaos. Fragments of iron and steel blown out from cars and buses lying everywhere, strange monstrous forms that could no longer be recognised, thick black air... these images reminded me of Picasso’s Gurnica depicting the 2nd world war,” he says. Back to his studio, he restlessnessly drew the conflict he witnessed.
Other pieces including Will There Be Redemption, Winds of Change and Hope Against Hope, all share the same emotional response to displacement. Munshi is being accompanied by other artists, including Ganesh Haloi, Mona Rai, Jayashree Chakraborty, Akhilesh, V Ramesh, Jagannath Panda, Atul Dodiya, Manisha Parekh and Nancy Adajania, all depicting a range of experiences, both painful and personal—to find a closure. For Munshi, the real breakthrough will only come if our are part of activism to save Kashmir from polarised politics. Perhaps, that the only way we can make it paradise again.