This college project turns a novel into an installation
Jazeela Basheer could not understand the Malayalam novel Mathilukal (translating to ‘walls’) the first time she read it, as an 11-year-old growing up in Kerala. But years later, she fell in love with this text by famous writer and freedom fighter, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, whom she coincidentally shares a last name with. And now, the 21-year-old National Institute of Design student is set to interpret the story through an installation performance, as part of her graduation project. Since her course focusses on incorporating narratives into spatial design, the avid reader turned towards literature.
Mathilukal is based on Vaikom’s time spent in prison, where he fell in love with a female inmate, Narayani, without ever having met her. The two would talk to each other through the wall separating their cells, and exchange gifts over them. In a cruel blow of fate, the writer is released a day before he decides to meet Narayani in person. Disheartened, he then questions the importance of his freedom.
“I have not recreated the entire storyline,” Jazeela says about her upcoming show, 30213, adding, “I have instead put together my experience of reading the book, and simple things like a blade and matchstick that the two used to play games with.”
The venue of 1 Shanthi Road (an art gallery-cum-residency) will have a home-like ambience, complete with three rooms, and a courtyard. The audience (10 at a time) is expected to walk around it.
In room 1, you will get to read about Vaikom’s life behind bars. In the next chamber, you will interact with an actor. In the last one, you will hear recorded voices on the subject. “You don’t need to follow a particular order to walk through the installation,” points out Jazeela, adding, “I don’t expect the audience to understand my performance at once, but I hope the props, like the blade, get them thinking about life, death and love.”
July 16-17. Entry free. Details: 9686865638
— Barkha Kumari