Books Witness/Kashmir 1986-2016, whichfeatures nine Kashmiri photographers from different eras, is about the personal as well as the collective memory of a people and their relation to their homeland.
After the fire, Frislan, 2012. Credit: Javed Dar
In a country in conflict, there are journalists who arrive with the rapacious speed of breaking news: they land, they grab what they need, they leave. There are also those who come and stay a little longer, who want to get the story straight and see it unfold. And then there are those who call that place home, those who are there to stay and are part of the story. The different temporality of these presences produces different narratives that have varying degrees of amplification. The voracious appetite for fresh news often turns the shouted headline into the whole story, leaving the whispered expressions of the local people on the ground almost unheard.
Sanjay Kak. Source: Author provided
On the fringe of this race, there are increasingly significant experiences of the autochthonous voices who reclaim the right to their own version of the story. The discourse around daily life in a country in conflict is, in fact, often tinged with a rhetoric of survivalism and resilience, hence placing the observers point of view within the framework of aid and development.
The locals are at the receiving end; they are the objects of attention and of charitable projects, hardly ever the narrators or the active subjects of their own story.
In 2008, I had the privilege of being a part of the initial steps of Metrography, the first independent Iraqi photo agency based in Kurdistan. The aim was to provide a platform to Iraqi photographers irrespective of religion, sect or ethnicity to respond to the omnipresent image of Iraq as a country on the brink.
Focussing on reportage rather than spot news, stories of ordinary life beyond ones of roadside bombs began to emerge. From pilgrimages and community celebrations to fashion trends, from street photography to the documentation of an incipient corporate life, Metrography managed to reveal the simple truth that in spite of war, life goes on.
Editedby SanjayKak Witness/Kashmir 1986-2016 Yarbal Press, 2017
Over the years I saw the same kind of yearning in Palestine and Afghanistan, where artists, photographers and writers have started building a solid and credible counterpoint to the standardised and stereotypical representations.
Witness/Kashmir 1986-2016: Nine Photographers embodies a similar desire emerging from Kashmir.Witness is a book edited and conceived by Sanjay Kak. It is a 30-year-long journey in the history of Kashmir through two hundred images taken by nine Kashmiri photographers Meraj Ud din, Javeed Shah, Dar Yasin, Javed Dar, Altaf Qadri, Sumit Dayal, Showkat Nanda, Syed Shahriyar and Azaan Shah.
The book is an immersive experience, one that takes days to fully savour and digest. It is comprehensive, yet not encyclopaedic. It gives no explanationbut makes a request to allow for time to look and listen, and thus it opens a window to the backstage of the complex reality of Kashmir. Witness is a project as intricate and elaborate as a piece of kashidakari, an elegant embroidery where each stitch is perfectly calibrated and contains several layers and messages within itself.
There is no single definition that can fully encompass the book: it is a photography book, a history book and a book of personal stories. In its assemblage, Kak produces multiple chronologies and orchestrates a variety of registers. The passing of time is marked by the generational history that organises the sequence of photographers: from the oldest, Meraj Ud Din, to the youngest, Azaan Shah, who is only 19 years old.
Another timeline comes at the end of the book, where the captioned photographs are ordered chronologically. The (political) history of the last 30 years in Kashmir is reconstructed visually, one painful step at a time: ordinary life is inextricably mixed with the struggle for azadi, the shadows of the passer-by mingle with the strive for self-determination. Interspersed among the captions is a glossary of the vernacular of war that characterises the daily life in the Valley counterinsurgency, massacre, militant, stone thrower words that have come to indicate the perpetual state of exception that has become ordinary in Kashmir.
Brothers, Boniyar, 2015. Credit: Showkat Nanda
In this endeavour to build what Kak calls an introduction to public memory, the individual life stories of the nine photographers emerge intimately, as unique and singular, but also as part of a collective and shared inheritance of customs, trauma, anger and defiance. With a subtle but incredibly powerful shift, Witness reveals itself as a book about Kashmiris as much as about Kashmir about the personal as much as about the collective memory of a people and their relation to their homeland. This is no little change in perspective, considering that the official rhetoric around Kashmir oscillates between a pristine paradise and a restive land a disputed territory where its people are either invisible or troublemakers to be tamed.
As it was withUntil My Freedom Has Come:The New Intifada in Kashmir (2011) the previous book edited by Kak Witness comes as a timely insiders reflection on a dramatic season of unrest.
Pellet-gun injuries, Srinagar, 2016. AP Images / Dar Yasin
In an ongoing conversation with Kashmiri poet and academic Ather Zia, we have come to refer to the 2016 upheaval as the summer of the eye. After the killing of the young rebel commander Burhan Wani in early July 2016, Kashmir erupted and its people took to the streets. This was by no means unannounced as rage had been simmering beneath the surface, but no one could predict that things would escalate to such a level. The Indian military and paramilitary responded to protests and kaeni jang(stone pelting) with an iron fist. Over the course of almost four months, at least 6,000 people were injured, more than 1,000 were hit in the eyes by the infamous pellet shotguns and over 100 of them were left totally or partially blind.
Beyond the metaphor, by hitting people in the eye, the security forces tried to kill the vision of a different future. They tried to remove the possibility to look beyond the present in a fashion that differs from what is envisaged by those in power. Witness is somehow an indirect response to this attempt. It brings to the table a corpus of visual evidence that tells the other side of the story, with its nuances of affection, commitment, mourning and resistance.
In the wealth of imagery that the book offers to the reader, two photographs have caught my attention. The first is a photo taken by Javed Dar in 2015 in a recently vacated paramilitary camp at Kawdor, in Srinagar. In the middle of the debris, children play with the remnants of military equipment; smiling to the camera, a young boy carries a cargo net knotted to a stick as a trailing flag. Three generations have grown up in Kashmir forced to come to terms with the normality of an extraordinary military presence in their daily life in their schools, on the streets, outside their homes, in their playgrounds.
The second photo, taken by Sumit Danyal in 2009, is a dreamlike black and white image of a tree. The tree is blurred and ungraspable and its branches seem to have captured a passing cloud. The caption reads: In the tales of ghosts who want to be set free, what often holds them back is memory.
Witness/Kashmir 1986-2016: Nine Photographers resides in that space of memory. Kak calls it a marker, a flag planted in contested ground. It is certainly a milestone in the journey towards a recognisable, autonomous Kashmiri voice. It is a testimony to the ghosts of the past and the struggles of the future, it is a testament to what Kashmir is and has been for those children who grew up playing in the leftovers of military camps.
Francesca Recchia is a researcher and writer based in Kabul. Her work focuses on intangible heritage and cultural practices in countries in conflict.
Tagged as: Afghanistan, Ather Zia, Azaan Shah, Francesca Recchia, Kashmir, Kurdistan, Meraj Ud din, Metrography, military equipment, Palestine, Sanjay Kak, Witness/Kashmir 1986-2016
- Return to your roots: Gardening a great solution to cope with stress of pandemic - The Independent - May 24th, 2020
- Else Blangsted, Who Fled the Nazis and Found a Hollywood Ending, Dies at 99 - The New York Times - May 24th, 2020
- Inside ultra-luxurious disaster survival kits where super-rich can pay 4k for night vision goggles and posh - The Sun - May 24th, 2020
- Far More Valuable Than a Stockpile of Food and Money - Investment U - May 19th, 2020
- Eat this Now (Because You Have to): Terrible Homemade Bread - Kansas City Pitch - May 15th, 2020
- Survivor Is the Quintessential TV Show - The Ringer - May 15th, 2020
- Documentary shows life in the 'Biosphere' wasn't out of this world - Arlington Catholic Herald - May 15th, 2020
- I didn't think a pandemic would bring out the domestic goddess in me - Metro.co.uk - May 11th, 2020
- How to avoid the end times - The Japan Times - March 24th, 2020
- Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two) - CounterPunch - February 27th, 2020
- Veteran Analyst Warns of XRP Crash to $0.20 as Price Stumbles - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Could Be on Verge of Explosive Breakout Higher, Taking It 100% Higher - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- XRP Just Flipped a Key Resistance Into Support: Why This is Bullish - Ethereum World News - February 27th, 2020
- Ripple Is On The Verge Of A New Rally According To Analysts - Somag News - February 27th, 2020
- West Ham need something drastic to kickstart a revival they might not get it in the Premier League - FourFourTwo - January 25th, 2020
- Lost in Space Season 3 Releasing on Netflix and Dr. Smith Will Return - Honk News - January 25th, 2020
- When Is Lost In Space Season 3 Coming Out On Netflix And Dr. Smith Returning Possibilities - The Digital Wise - January 25th, 2020
- The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 1/15/20: Survivalism - UPROXX - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin Indicator That Called Rally to $14000 Flashes Again - BTCNN - January 18th, 2020
- Bitcoin just cracked $8,500, and it means bulls are taking control - CryptoSlate - January 18th, 2020
- Ethereum Forms a Bearish Rejection Just Below a Key Resistance Level - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- The Explosion In This One Metric Is Bullish for Bitcoins Price - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Why An Analyst Thinks XRP Price Has Further to Fall - Ethereum World News - January 18th, 2020
- Would a Virginia bill really ban dads from teaching sons how to use hunting rifles? - PolitiFact - December 18th, 2019
- Amazon's holiday gift to Orlando's sci-fi fans is a revitalized season of 'The Expanse' - Orlando Weekly - December 13th, 2019
- Market Experts Weigh in on the Next Major Mergers & Acquisitions in Media - Observer - November 21st, 2019
- A brief history of John Krasinski's transformation into a guy who absolutely loves the CIA - Business Insider - November 21st, 2019
- Richard Tobin of Brooklawn accused of conspiring to initimidate minorities - Courier Post - November 21st, 2019
- The Terminator Created a New Kind of Hero With Kyle Reese - Yahoo Entertainment - October 27th, 2019
- Bitcoin Might Head To The $6,000 Region In The Near-Term According to Wyckoff Logic - ZyCrypto - October 17th, 2019
- Low Tide Review: The Goonies Meets The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Sharp Coming-of-Age Thriller - IndieWire - October 4th, 2019
- As the climate collapses, we can either stand together or perish alone - The Guardian - October 4th, 2019
- Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes - Locus Online - October 4th, 2019
- Oregon 'Hate Map' Reveals 11 Racist, Separatist Hate Groups In The State - Patch.com - August 18th, 2017
- Doomsday Desperation - Southern Poverty Law Center - August 18th, 2017
- 'American Made' Review: Tom Cruise Flies Between Comedy and Tension, Missing Both - TheWrap - August 18th, 2017
- North Korea: Nuclear War Fears Spur Sales of Preparedness Goods ... - Fortune - August 14th, 2017
- For Doomsday Preppers, the End of the World Is Good for Business - New York Times - August 13th, 2017
- Film Review: Good Time - Consequence of Sound (blog) - August 13th, 2017
- What I Learned From the Neo-Nazi in My Prison Book Club | The ... - The Marshall Project - August 11th, 2017
- Nine Inch Nails - Webster Hall, New York City - Gigs - Reviews ... - Soundblab - August 11th, 2017
- Film Review: The Glass Castle Fails on Almost Every Level - Splice Today - August 11th, 2017
- If North Korea targets Guam, how should the US respond? - Fox News - August 11th, 2017
- Naked - slantmagazine - August 10th, 2017
- Noir Thriller Wind River Examines An Ignored America - Willamette Week - August 10th, 2017
- Silicon Valley luminaries are busily preparing for when robots take ... - Mashable - August 10th, 2017
- Review: Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is as Riveting as it is Groundbreaking - First Showing (blog) - July 23rd, 2017
- Do you Have What it Takes to be a Christian Survivalist? - CBN News - July 19th, 2017
- Morning Star :: No growth but lots of opportunities | The People's Daily - Morning Star Online - July 19th, 2017
- 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Review: Finale of biblical proportions - Rappler - July 18th, 2017
- Queued Up: 'The Lego Batman Movie,' 'XX,' 'Logan,' and More - Aquarian Weekly - July 12th, 2017
- Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes - Consequence of Sound (blog) - July 11th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ... - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - July 8th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ineffably creepy - Norwich Evening News - July 8th, 2017
- DJ CherishTheLuv, Music Missionary - HuffPost - June 30th, 2017
- What it Means to Finish Pikes Peak + Results - Hot Rod Network - Hot Rod Network - June 29th, 2017
- 'It Comes at Night' a Spellbinding Tale of Family and Survival - Shepherd Express - June 29th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Charleston Express - June 26th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Arkansas News - June 25th, 2017
- Where billionaires are stockpiling land for the apocalypse: Map - The Real Deal Magazine - June 19th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - Business Insider Nordic - June 17th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - SFGate - June 15th, 2017
- Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse here's where they're going - The Advocate - June 15th, 2017
- Next "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana - KRTV Great Falls News - June 11th, 2017
- Veteran teaches disaster preparation skills at Heights library - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 10th, 2017
- It Comes At Night stars on survivalism, the apocalypse - WDEF News 12 - June 9th, 2017
- Recently unveiled documents reveal anarchist strand festered at Evergreen for nearly a decade - The College Fix - June 9th, 2017
- Margaret Atwood on the utopias hiding inside her dystopias and why there is no the future - Vox - June 9th, 2017
- Humanity 2.0: The Unstoppability of Singularity - HuffPost - June 8th, 2017
- Upcoming "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KTVQ Billings News - June 6th, 2017
- Survivalist shares experience in Harker Heights - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 5th, 2017
- Click Your Hiking Boots Together: Oz Farm Is NorCal's Eco ... - 7x7 - June 3rd, 2017
- You'll Find Far Cry 5 ProvocativeEven if It's a Mess - WIRED - June 1st, 2017
- 'Alien: Covenant' and the Nature of Horror - Film School Rejects - June 1st, 2017
- Via 'The Florida Project,' meet two of the youngest stars in Cannes Film Festival history - Los Angeles Times - June 1st, 2017
- Alien 3 is far from the worst Alien movie. In fact, it's pretty great. - Vox - Vox - May 23rd, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Grand Forks Herald - May 14th, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Duluth News Tribune - May 11th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - May 9th, 2017
- Homesteading and Survivalism Living a simple life - May 6th, 2017