‘A Woman was harassed here’


KT 2077 was led by artistic director Cosmin Costinas (from Para Site, Hong Kong) and Kathmandu based co-curators Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung…writes Sukant Deepak

‘A Woman Was Harassed Here’ — if you were in Mumbai a few years back, it was not uncommon to encounter a bright pink poster with this line at different public spaces. These were the places where artist Aqui Thami or someone she knew had faced harassment. This was also part of the recently concluded Kathmandu Triennale 2077 (KT 2077).

“The project essentially emerged from my desire to mark these spaces to build community, call attention to the harassment women face and most importantly reclaim my power from these spaces where I was rendered powerless. There has been much love shared majorly by women and immediate participation and exchange. Of course, we have also witnessed some hostility from the authorities and people who do not want women to talk back,” this indigenous artist based in Mumbai tells.

Member of ‘Bombay Underground’, a collective that experiments with diverse public art practices, the artist, who runs the ‘Dharavi Art Room’ and started the ‘Sister Library’ as a roaming library aiming to take books to places that do not boast of libraries, and offering space, not just for reading but healing too. Her practice, which is centred around the culture of DIY, self-publishing and guerrilla poster, she believes in the act of ‘doing’ and addresses political and social issues.

Stressing that she had always experienced art as a medium of healing, the artist adds, “Dharavi Art Room is a wonderfully warm family, and we have worked towards building a space where we are allowed to be curious, to make, to question, to dream and so much more in spite of everything that is going on in our lives.”

Currently pursuing a doctoral degree from TISS, Mumbai, the artist says that KT 2077 was refreshing as she witnessed two powerful indigenous curators and artists putting together a brilliant festival. “Such art festivals are crucial for all people to have an opportunity and space to come together and reflect on culture,” she adds.

KT 2077 was led by artistic director Cosmin Costinas (from Para Site, Hong Kong) and Kathmandu based co-curators Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung.

Talking about the ‘Sister Library’ which she started when she started reading women exclusively about seven years back, she recalls, “When I started, it was all the books that impacted me and was almost like looking into the mind of the artist. Over the years, it has grown to be so much more. With all the travels and collecting books and independently published works, to starting a radio — ‘Sister Radio’, to a Riso press — ‘Sister Press’ and publishing our newspaper, ‘Sister Times’. The travelling has been extremely enriching. I am forever grateful to the ever-growing community that wants to centre and celebrate women and Women’s works. The work evolves with every interaction and is ever-growing and evolving”

Thami, who grew up in Darjeeling but left home when she was 15-years-old, is in Venice currently, doing a residency at the Ocean Space in collaboration with the Sami pavilion at the Venice Biennale. “I am happy to be here and looking forward to creating work thinking about our relationship with oceans as indigenous peoples.”

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