Azirah Binte Jamal

Video Art
Gandhari's Lament
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Azirah's works usually attempt to smooth over incompatibilities between human rights, values, religion, and culture. The distinction between culture and religion is not so distinct, with cultural practices becoming “religionised” and religious ideas and spaces becoming part of the culture. While acknowledgment of this interaction might throw into question this particular strategy of distinction to promote human rights, it can open up other avenues for a more positive understanding of the way we understand culture and religion.

The artist also does taxidermy from time to time. Practicing the beauty of preserving dead organic forms like insects, arachnids, etc. She perceives her collections to be a reminder and symbol of Memento Mori. The idea of distortion on her tangible collections aroused her curiosity to integrate and experiment with different synthetic mediums into assemblages. Rendering her creations to address the abnormality of life.

The work Lament of Gandhari talks about Gandhari, a princess of Gandhara, is a character in the Mahabharata, the second of India’s two national epics. A pious woman and devoted wife, Gandhari voluntarily blindfolds herself throughout her married life in empathy with her blind husband, King Dhritarashtra. She also bears him one hundred sons, collectively known as the Kauravas, who are portrayed as villains in the Mahabharata. The Kauravas are ultimately defeated and killed by the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War, generally dated to the 10th century BCE. In the poem, taken from an abridged verse translation, Queen Gandhari surveys the battlefield, strewn with the dead bodies of all her sons.

The artist’s aim is to tell the story of Queen Gandhari through visual metaphors and sounds in the film. Reminiscing the stories of the Indian epic Mahabharata and the blindfolded queen that the artist’s mum used to tell her as she was growing up, the artist aims through this project to understand Gandhari’s thought process behind blindfolding herself, and to imagine her story in the 21st century. The work is ultimately about how one’s choices define one, and understanding this question through the story of Gandhari.

The story of Gandhari offers listeners an opportunity to reflect upon their actions of today and their implications in the future. It is true that she had the right to make her own choices but is it also not true that she wasn’t the only one bearing the brunt of her choices? The rise of Duryodhana, her villainous son, was nothing but a result of poor parenting. Whenever time and situation demanded her participation, she only offered inaction. The act of not acting on anything was also a choice she made. She is responsible for the unprecedented carnage and loss of lives more than her devious husband, because while he was born blind, she was one who deliberately chose to be.

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