10 November, 2017 – India Today
“Bangladeshi photographer Munem Wasif’s debut show in India, Jomin o Joban – A Tale of the Land, features just four works. But Wasif has packed into it a multitude of ideas about history, borders, ecology and economy.
Jomin o Joban, which translates to “land and promise,” begins with a set of photographs (“Land of the Undefined Territory). Taken in what looks like a nondescript, barren stretch of land, they depict the disputed border territory between India and Bangladesh that in reality seems to belong to neither country but to industry-which aggressively mines the area for limestone.
The video “Machine Matters” juxtaposes the promises industry makes with its failures. Filmed at a languorous pace, the video is rich with melancholy irony as the camera gazes upon machines in a derelict jute mill. Once symbols of modernity and profit, they’re now no more than junk. At regular intervals, Wasif also shifts focus-for instance, zooming in so close on the body of a worker that he no longer seems human. The skin becomes a terrain that’s twitching, heaving and eerily beautiful.
Against this bleakness is the blue-tinted vitality of nature that’s surviving as fragile blueprints in “Seeds Shall Set Us Free”. In the 50 prints of rice, seeds and other natural elements, Wasif offers a coded history of agriculture in the eastern part of the subcontinent, where agribusiness has ravaged the land. Whether it’s the colonial-era cash crops or the GM seeds of today, the effect of such agriculture is much the same-devastating the region’s diversity so that all that remains is indigo-tinted memory.
In the white box of the gallery, Munem Wasif’s cyanotypes gleam like treasure-providing a spark of vibrancy in a show that is mostly black, white and dusty brown. A few stand out, like a heartbreakingly delicate print of an insect’s torn wings, and the set showing rice in patterns that take inspiration from the hand-painted designs drawn on Bengali floors on festive days. Creating copies of elements from a natural world that’s under threat, the cyanotypes scorch the monotone exhibition with the vibrant blue of remembrance…”