The Mag This Week

In DNA Sunday’s Books page, we had reviews of

Peter Smetacek’s Butterflies On The Roof Of the World: A Memoir, by Mita Ghose

Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, by Sanjay Sipahimalani

Jayant Kripalani’s New Market Tales, by Joanna Lobo

and last, but definitely not least, Amish’s The Oath of the Vayuputras, by R Krishna. For those interested, Krishna spoke to Amish about his Shiva Trilogy.

Elsewhere in The Mag, I wrote a tiny piece about Reena Kallat’s mahussive installation that will be up on Bhau Daji Lad Museum for the next few months. Kallat was commissioned to make this work by ZegnArt Public, a project sponsored by the fashion label Zegna. The local partner is Bhau Daji Lad. Here’s what it looks like, from a distance and up close.

Despite being properly swamped before the installation was actually put up — pullies weren’t enough; they needed a crane to get the web up ultimately, just as Reena had suspected — Reena did make the time to chat with me about her work. Here’s what she told me about making this particular piece and its location.

Bhau Daji Lad is a city museum, it archives the artisanal and industrial past. That was my interest. The fact that the museum itself had undergone a change of name, from being the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Bhau Daji Lad, that has its resonance in the city in terms of street names being changed from colonial names to indigenous names.

Reena’s installation is made up of outsized rubber stamps that have names of Mumbai streets on them, written in English and Hindi. She’s picked the names that were changed for not being sufficiently local. 

I was interested at how else one could extend this into looking at how streets reflect the imagination of the city. In what manner do street names define the identity of the city? Do street names mean anything to people?

Tasneem [Zakaria-Mehta, director of BDL Museum] was really courageous to take this on because it’s a heritage building and we’ll have to keep in mind all those issues. But she was very positive. There’s a very close relationship with the museum because it has a lot of colonial statues in their backyard, many of the people are those whose names the street names were based on. You also have the foundation stones that were laid to mark the city, which was only the Fort area before the walls came down and the city expanded.

Well, actually she told me lots more, but I’ll put that up at a later date. (Insert mysterious waggle of eyebrows here.)

In case anyone was thinking of scooping out quotes and passing them off as your own, please don’t. Partly because I’ve done this interview and also because Reena Kallat’s one of the most approachable artists you’ll ever come across. So get in touch with her, and enjoy interviewing her for yourself.

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