Zakkir Hussain
Zakkir Hussain

Artist Zakkir Hussain explores memory and trauma through Indian ink art

“I like Indian ink because it is risky,” he says, adding, “You cannot make tonal variations. Black or white is the only possibility.”

On most days artist Zakkir Hussain would stand at the window of his studio at Kadavanthra, Kochi, and look out into the backyard thick with mango and drumstick trees. Often, he would see a sparrow fly in and peck at a mango. It would make him wonder: if the trees were cut down in the name of development, would the bird have a memory of the tree? Or if the sparrow died, would the tree remember it? He translated such questions on to the canvas, which were portrayed as a series of Indian ink and brush drawings: Obliterated Stories.

“I like Indian ink because it is risky,” he says, adding, “You cannot make tonal variations. Black or white is the only possibility.” One drawing shows a young woman with a man’s hand gripping her left arm. Behind her eyes, is reflected a mother and child. From there, a line goes downwards ending at a series of upside down houses like on a laundry line.

“Through the houses, I wanted to show that women, sometimes, are forced to migrate from one place to another,” says the 54-year-old. The artist has placed a dog near her open mouth; it is as if the woman wants to speak but cannot. “She is undergoing inner trauma and has no language to express herself because society does not allow her,” Zakkir explains.

Another drawing is of a young woman holding the branch of a tree which has impaled her palm. A sparrow sits on the branch. Another image is of a bird whose beaks have been tied with a string. Zakkir’s universe is almost over-populated with people and discarded objects, like a ghetto of imagination. The house appears as a repeating metaphor in his work, standing for a lack of security and societal conventions.

“I am highlighting social tensions through my art and developing a new language,” says the artist who draws inspiration from Santiniketan artists such as Somnath Hore, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij and KP Krishnakumar.

The ideological slant is evident in his empathy. Interested in art from a young age, Zakkir’s first works, when still in college, were around Leftist political slogans inspired by the poems of Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz. “The social communication of art excited me and the positive response to my drawings encouraged me to do more,” says the artist, a student of the College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum and MS University of Vadodara. It’s the pairing of the organic and inorganic that holds centre space in his work which resonates with images of social and personal vulnerabilities that are forever posing questions.

The New Indian Express