Produced and Directed by Sheba Remy Kharbanda & William Charles Moss

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We are all tent dwellers in a desert space (the world),
inhabiting tents made of flesh (our bodies).

-  John Durham Peters

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Five Rivers: A Portrait of Partition illustrates the intimate complexities of “home.” Staged inside a traditional Indian wedding tent, this cycloramic screening marries culture-bridging conventions of storytelling to the sensory stimulation of a sculptural installation. Projected footage occupies select surfaces of the space, conducting a conflation of four synchronized films that craft the narrative of Amrik Singh, Kharbanda’s father, a Punjabi/Afghani Sikh who at age nine left his childhood home to make a migration alongside millions across the Indian Subcontinent in the months preceding the Partition of India in 1947. Singh’s introspective recollections carry an oracular invitation for participants to trace his turbulent journey to redefine home across the sudden and stark borders evinced by the establishment of Pakistan and India as independent states. Clearly visible on the white textile of the tent from both inside and outside the structure, these immersive sequences of interviews, landscapes, and historical documentation are fostered by a pervasive soundtrack of contemporary Punjabi and Urdu poetry, diaristic testimony, and speeches that imbibe the space with a potent sense of the memory.

The installation employs the tent as a symbol of diversity, a congregational space that transcends its otherwise overtly historical discourse. At its core, Five Rivers strives to extend the reach of Singh’s search for self within an ever-changing and fragile demography to stake out a common ground that obscures both imagined and literal divisions and inspires an overarching sense of unity.

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Artist statement

I come from a family of storytellers and storytelling has felt like my calling. A thread shared by both sides of my family is the story of witnessing and surviving the Partition of India. Though I did not live through that momentous event, like many descendants of those who did, it's as if I carry it in my DNA. It’s like a haunting. My father is the only relative still alive with a clear enough memory as well as a desire to share publicly his recollections of that tumultuous time. I felt a strong call to house his memories, to give them a literal and metaphorical home in order to sacralize them, in so doing, transforming them into an occasion for collective catharsis and healing.

- Sheba Remy Kharbanda

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Review

Kharbanda’s work is a depiction of courage and heroism of the men and women who survived the massacre of 1947 despite atrocities and dislocation.

- Blouin Artinfo

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Review

The art of replicating memory to the moving space of an artwork is not just pioneer, but also highlights the inexorable fleeting sense of spatial and temporal zones. 

- Dr Alka Pande, The Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre

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Content (narrative) reel. To view on youtube, please click here

Short reel of debut at The India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India, November 14-21, 2014. To view on YouTube, please click here.

 

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the artists bring out, in a very poignant manner, the pathos of being uprooted from one’s home soil.

The Hindu

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Credits

Opening poem: Rahila Gupta, Journalist, Playwright, Writer

Second poem: Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu, Amrita Pritam

Closing poem: Sufi kalam of Baba Farid

Editing Assistance: Heather CassanoBranan Edgens and Andreas Wagner