In a recent artist residency in Dhaka, I had the opportunity to visit a memorial that had been built on the site of a mass grave from the 1971 Liberation War. I was told that so far, 1500 of these mass graves have been discovered and documented all over Bangladesh. They are usually found in the process of digging up the earth for building foundations of new buildings. The 1971 War Museum has been storing all the bones that have been unearthed in these mass graves, and displays a small portion of this macabre collection in vitrines with photo-documentation of these mass graves. While deeply affected, I figured there was no way for me to work with this material artistically, because some moments from history are simply meant to be felt, not to be aestheticized.
On a recent trip to Ireland, a country with a deep connection to India because of the shared histories of colonial and ethnic trauma, I found myself very intrigued by the stone fences, and the stones in the Burren. The history of land ownership in Ireland and the hard struggle of the Irish people for their independence also struck a chord. I started drawing these stones, and in the process of drawing which is a very immediate and intuitive medium for me, the stones started turning into bones. The more I drew, the more bones came out on the paper, and I realized that the narrative of the mass graves that I had buried in my sub-conscious in Dhaka was coming out through the drawings of the stones.
This project attempts to process these difficult narratives by creating a trans-cultural bridge of memories and histories. The title "Handful of Dust" is inspired by a collection of poems by Bangladeshi poet, Feroze Ahmed-ud-Din.