Walls of the Womb, 2007

Installation view, Hangar Bicocca, Milan

Walls of the womb
Tied-and-dyed silk, brass, bonded marble, handwritten recipe books
234 in. x 45 in. l 594 x 114 cm each

This series, unlike most of my other works, is autobiographical in nature and has perhaps taken me the longest period of time to articulate into communicable form.My relationship with my mother, who I lost when I was 8 years of age, has been built around the objects she left behind; those sewn by her, stuffed toys she made me, photo-albums, her personal books, stories narrated to me by other family members, besides my own faint recollections. I’ve spent a good part of my childhood going through my mother’s personal belongings such as her sarees, cosmetics, bags, sometimes bringing them out of closed cupboards to look at, while at other times trying them on myself. I arrived at this work through the frequent contact with my mother’s sarees that have remained stacked inside a cupboard for over 27 years.

The work comprises of 12 sarees dyed in shades of red, such that through the process of tie and dye, the un-dyed dotted areas remain white, where the untreated virgin fabric forms a text in Braille. The text laid on these sarees seen in reverse print, are translations of recipes from my mothers hand written recipe books. The associations with motherhood are carried through the symbolic usage of the saree and the recipes from my mother’s books extend it further by evoking notions of nurturing and nourishing. With my recent role as a mother I find myself having come full circle, inadvertently re-establishing contact with a past I’d tried hard to put behind me.

The sarees, while beautiful, remain illegible. The dotted patterns forming the script in braille disallow easy access to the content of the text, much like the relationship with my mother that is built on fragments of inscrutable memory.

Texts by Nancy Adajania and Grant Watson

detail, vitrine containing artist’s mother’s handwritten recipe book
process shots, Tie and die: Imtiaz Khatri and Family