As part of an ongoing exploration of the evolving dynamics between ‘content, container and context’ within design, I am interested in a critical investigation of the paradoxical discourse surrounding Kashmir, a long-term disputed South Asian state that is in a tug-of-war between nuclear power countries – India, Pakistan & China. Owing to its beautiful landscape and natural resources, it has long been perceived as an Object of desire– famously cited as “Paradise on Earth” during the 19th and 20th centuries – a representation so much in contrast with another stark reality of being the “Saddest, most dangerous place on Earth” that has been subjected to violence, colonization, sectarianism and territoriality for political power for decades now. These narrow representations from Others obsess over the territory while conveniently erasing Kashmiri people from the frame, memories and ultimately their own homeland.
Coming from the Kashmiri ethnicity, I want to dig deeper into the meanings, memories, representations and connotations associated with vernacular and cultural emblems. Taking inspiration from these, my aim is to create a visual language through techniques of manipulation and juxtaposition that can in turn serve as material representation of the parallel narratives that reflect and refract the multiple experiences of tortured subjectivity in Kashmir since 1947 – the year of partition of the Indian sub-continent. These experiences surround the trauma of lost memories of the past, identity crisis and dissonance, uncertainty of the future and a constant sense of alienation inherited over generations and experienced on both personal and collective level, within the context of a complex socio-political, humanitarian and cultural crisis in the present day Kashmir.
I am also interested in investigating how these suppressed representations and conversations are interpreted and responded by the colonized subject, the colonizer and global spectator. This is to be analyzed through the different kinds of emotional stimulations and political-intellectual responses they can possibly evoke. These ‘talking objects’ narrating intimate stories with Kashmir at their heart as repositories of contradiction and introspection are meant to initiate a relatable humanitarian dialogue around an otherwise overly simplified representation of the region. I hope this project serves as a step forward for Kashmiris towards reclaiming their identity, culture, space and homeland.