Jomin o Joban - a tale of the land
Project 88 is pleased to present Munem Wasif's debut solo in Mumbai titled Jomin o Joban – a tale of the land. Jomin o Joban is an account of personal relationships with land and its ever-changing forms, intertwining issues of borders, territory, economy, and political ecology. Each of Wasif’s works is closely connected on an intrinsic level; from the loss of lands, through to the struggles of seeds and agriculture, and the decline of heavy industry.
Shot in the border territory between Bangladesh and India, Land of Undefined Territory is a suite of 28 photographic prints that presents us with repetitive frames, showing barren landscapes that appear to hold no significant geographical, nor political identity. A land that could be anywhere; but crucially is not. Shifting in scale and focus, Wasif’s lens then turns to what lies beneath this soil, looking in depth at seeds and agriculture, re-imagining this long-disputed portion of land as almost extra-terrestrial – a place beyond space and time, belonging to no one.
Intertwining with issues of borders and territory, Seeds shall set us free is a series of cyanotype prints of dripping seeds, that create variable forms, conciliated and resilient. Previously associated with diversity, indigenous knowledge, and natural ecology, the introduction of genetically modified crops and western pesticides created a rupture, disconnecting this ecology from all that had come to characterise it. This body of work presents a reproduction of different types of rice among thousands of variations, a heritage from traditional agriculture threatened by industrial standardisation.
In 2009, Wasif's solo show at Chobi Mela V, 'Blood Splinter of Jute, dealt with the workers and farmers of Bangladesh. Now, in 2017, his lens returns to this subject and video replaces photography, shifting his focus from the movements of the workers, to the mourning of machines, and memories of an increasingly distant industrial past. Jute connected Bengal’s peasant smallholders to new global circuits of capital, but during the colonial era, jute was seen to impoverish Bengal whilst enriching British capitalists, finally leading to famine and starvation, as jute slowly displaced rice cultivation, and there was little left to eat. In Wasif’s latest work, Machine Matter, the memories of this industrial past stands like a scar, symbolising an ever-present, but long-lost fight.
At its core, Jomin o Joban is a tale of land, connecting the stories, promises- held and broken, and disparate realities of modern Bengal.