Untitled (Enemy Properties)
four channel video installation with relief sculpture panels
In the four channel video, one encounters architectural structures from pre-independence India that were designated “enemy properties” and annexed by the government during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. The buildings were classified thus for their past association with individuals born in what is now India, who chose to leave for Pakistan at the time of partition. They include the European-style former home of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Mumbai and Kishori Court, once owned by the actress Hamida Begum (also in Mumbai); as well as the Butler House in Lucknow, and the Mahmudabad Kothi in Mahmudabad, both commissioned by the rulers of Mahmudabad, an estate in Awadh. Dotted outlines of these buildings made in salt emerge slowly like star maps creating light, evanescent images that belie the weight of the past as it bears down on the present. The images gradually fragment and dissipate, capturing both the physical disintegration of the buildings in a state of limbo and the fading memories of partition that underlie contemporary life in both India and Pakistan.
Similar Custodian of Enemy Property Laws were established by various countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, UK, US, Jordan and Israel amongst others. One is drawn to think of how architecture becomes a projection of historical hostility, making us deliberate upon the ascribed adjective of ‘enmity’ that is applied to the inanimate buildings, almost personifying them.