Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest work looks at the experience and displacement of more than 15 million people who fled across the hastily drawn borders between India and Pakistan in 1947, The Guardian reported.
“Home 1947” as she calls it is a “personal” issue and is an ode to her grandfather who was among those who had to cross borders, and felt very strongly on the subject. The hostility between India and Pakistan, who are now nuclear countries, shape the subcontinent today as well.
Obaid-Chinoy focuses on the personal element of the Partition, the feelings, memories and the sense of nostalgia associated with the year 1947 as opposed to the political viewpoint everyone is well-versed with. It is precisely this mixture of nostalgia, memory and hurt that she is exploring in Home 1947, an art installation created for the Manchester International Festival.
“This is personal. It’s an ode to my grandparents’ generation. How did it feel that, when you left your home, it not only stopped being your home, but became part of an enemy country?” she told The Guardian while talking about the nature of her latest work.
She also comments on the way in which the Partition is taught and talked about in Pakistan asking, “You read the textbooks, you see the news reports or watch archival footage, but everything is from the political point of view. What about the lives they left? The conversations they never finished? The scent of jasmine outside their bedroom window?”
The artwork also features a recreation of a pre-Partition home which is decorated accordingly, and a room that contains films and snippets with personal stories of the experience. She also places focus on the horrors faced by women in that environment, and the fear of rape and abuse that was prevalent during that era.
Obaid-Chinoy is a two-time Oscar winning documentary maker who has shed light on the most important issues in Pakistan; honor killing and domestic abuse through acid attacks. She has faced a lot of backlash because of her bold unveiling of such issues to the world. Saba – the subject of her documentary ‘”A Girl in the River” is now granted asylum in Switzerland after the documentary was aired.
“A Girl in the River has incredibly positive messages in it, too: a policeman who is a hero, a doctor who is a hero, a lawyer who is a hero. Am I glad international pressure forces society to confront an issue so horrific? Absolutely. If this is what it is going to take, I will work on that for the rest of my life,” she says when talking about the way in which her documentaries were received internationally and in Pakistan.
Her latest project includes a series of 14 films, a how-to guide for women in Pakistan so they are aware of their rights which includes, “how to file a police report, how to get a divorce, how to report rap, and what to do if the police don’t file the case”.
“It is very hard to be a woman in Pakistan and speak your mind. You know there will be an attempt to silence you. And the more people do that with me, the more I know I am being successful,” she said while confirming that she expected backlash and criticism from people in Pakistan who did not appreciate the work she did.
Manchester International Festival defines Obaid-Chinoy’s latest project on their website, “In this unique and deeply beautiful immersive exhibition, two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy reflects on the largest mass migration ever witnessed, which took place exactly 70 years ago this year. HOME1947 puts a human face on history, asking what it means to find and feel at home.”
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