Kazi In Nomansland

Photo, Sculpture, Essay

Conversation, Arab Studies Journal

Pakistan Issue, Granta

Manual for Treason, ed. Murtaza Vali

Beena Sarwar review

The Third Line, Dubai; VM Gallery, Karachi; Green Cardamom, London, Experimenter, Kolkata

Edition 1: Private collectors, Edition 2: British Museum, Edition 3: Samdani Art Foundation


I am Hell's mad terrific sea of wrath!
I ride on the wings of lightning with joy and profundity
I scatter misery and fear all around
I bring earthquakes on this world!
I am rebel eternal

After serving in the British Indian Army, Nazrul is radicalized and starts writing revolutionary poems and songs against British Raj. This iconic work becomes the theme of the anti-colonial movement, and he is jailed by British police. But as kaliyug of 1940s enters, Nazrul watches in horror as the liberation movement metastasizes into the cancer of Hindu-Muslim riots and drums of partition. In 1941 he publicly writes against the idea of Pakistan and is promptly fired from his job at an influential Muslim newspaper. But through his working life, Nazrul is difficult to digest for either side. He is hounded by Muslims as kafir, and by Hindus as jobon.

Two flowers on same stem, Hindu-Musalman
Musalman the centered eye, Hindu the soul
At night now, we chase and slaughter you my new enemy
But with dawn brothers will know what they did each other
We will embrace and cry, ask for forgiveness again

In 1942, Nazrul contracts a mysterious disease and eventually loses his memory and power of speech. His wife's sudden death deepens a streak of dementia, and he is "treated" at two asylums. A tragic vegetative state will continue for another 35 years. And now Nazrul's rabbit hole life begins, as he becomes a blank canvas for competing fantasies about a "Muslim poet" after 1947.