Remembering the iconic artist, Zarina Hashmi
Founder of No. 3 Clive Road, Radhika Chopra on what Zarina Hashmi's work meant to her
With tributes for the much-respected Zarina Hashmi being shared across social media today, I couldn’t help but think back to my first encounter with the artist in 1997. I had just joined New York-based Bose Pacia Gallery, tucked away in a historic SoHo warehouse building, at an idyllic time for contemporary Indian art, pure and not driven by market forces.
Within my first few weeks at work, I was sent on my very first assignment to interview the print-maker for her upcoming exhibition at the gallery. With very little knowledge of her work in those early days of contemporary Indian art in America, yet eager to learn, I was struck by the warm welcome of a woman who was about my mother’s age, dressed in a salwar kameez just like my mother.
We sat surrounded by paper prints with words I could not read, but a script that reminded me of my father and his memories of his childhood at Chief’s College Lahore in the 1930s, only a handful of Sikhs to attend the prestigious royal institution. Pouring over sheets of handmade paper, our conversation that afternoon centered around the idea of finding an identity in our adopted homeland, never fully belonging, clinging to childhood memories. The story was similar to my own. We shared familiar memories over a cup of tea, that of my mother’s in Gujranwala and her’s in Aligarh, a mirror opposite of my parent’s history. Growing up in America in the 80s and 90s, with very little connection to my past, here I was finding home in Zarina.
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I acquired A Home I Made / A Life in Nine Lines (1997) shortly after the interview and subsequently followed Zarina’s career for over twenty years. From exhibitions in Delhi and Mumbai to the Guggenheim Museum, I would absorb the simplicity of her art that was layered with history.
It is ironic that I am surrounded by her works at home in Delhi especially at a time when there is nowhere for any of us to turn, and I am reminded once again of Zarina’s notion of home. Floor plans and four walls, borders and boundaries, dislocation of journeys; we are all experiencing an uneasy feeling of being trapped these past 33 days. Yet today, there is comfort in knowing that Zarina has finally found home.
Swipe through to see some of Zarina Hashmi’s work:
Radhika Chopra is the founder of No. 3 Clive Road, an art patron, and serves on the advisory board of the Foundation for India Contemporary Art and the Arts Council of the Mittal Institute at Harvard University.
Photos courtesy: Zarina Hashmi (Instagram)