When it rains, when the sun shines, when the sky turns blue and it turns grey, the world seems normal. The world seems usual through the windowpane, it seems normal when I paint, it seems normal when I talk to a loved one. The rain which falls, falls on an outbreak, the sun shines over anxieties and the sky covers a world of pain, then it turns grey to match the colour of humanity, and glistens the earth with water, pouring hope over a distressed world.

Living in a metropolis we seldom encounter a collective fear, like that of the current Pandemic, a fear which envelops a whole community at the same point and builds zones of apprehension and discomfort, something we all share at a given point of time. Yet there are communities and groups who have faced fear, doubt and distrust over long periods of time; they have shared these qualms and lived, struggled and built a living through difficult times.

The Rohingya Muslims are one such community, an ethnic minority group from Myanmar, in 2017 large sections of the Rohingya community migrated from Mynamar when they faced fear, persecution and statelessness. ‘Unsettled Identities’ is an Exhibition of Photographs by Graphic Designer and Photographer Anuj Arora, part of Prameya Art Foundation’s Discover Initiative/Show supporting new and emerging artists. Anuj Arora’s works trace the lives and struggles of Rohingya Muslims, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world and one of the most overlooked minorities in India. There are around 900 Rohingya refugees in camps in Delhi-NCR alone. The camps are in Shaheen Bagh, Madanpur Khadar, Okhla and Vikaspuri areas. Anuj often found Rohingya men chatting near street side tea stalls in the Madanpur Khadar area where he often travelled to, to visit a friend who lived in that area.

The Artist grew up listening to stories of his grandparents during the Partition of 1947 and how they had fled Lahore and had struggled to build a new life in Delhi, yet a part of them still lives in Lahore. These narrated memoirs and his daily commute to places where Rohingya camps were located, prompted him to engage with contemporary stories of forced migration.

The photographic documenting came to light as and when Anuj Arora built relationships within the community in Shaheen Bagh. The community was going through verification processes in India – signing documents and sharing details of family residing in Mynamar. They shared stories of how they were concerned about being sent back home and for their relatives who were still in Rakhine state, Mynamar. Every day the families would listen to news on Rohingya communities in neighbouring countries in anticipation.

The Artist continues to have regular contact with several families. He speaks of how the community is still haunted by fear, memories of persecution and identities they left behind, and lives lost and how they try to rebuild their lives in a new city against all odds. Amidst the several challenges they are reminded about their past, through their own circumstances or through government interventions. The Photographs are a visual document of friendship, care and community that the Photographer shared with the community through a period.

This show is part of the Discover Series introduced by Prameya Art Foundation as a creative response to the pandemic, supporting young and emerging artists. Prameya Art Foundation believes that this is the right time to introduce relevant and sensitive work that speaks to the current context, as exhibition spaces have shut down and digital platforms have emerged and many more people have time to discover and study new artists.

The day is a conversation between the lights and shadows, just like the mind, never settling in its current state. From being broken, to a beacon of hope, to muddled colloquies, to sleeping romanticisms and extraordinary flights of faith and freedom. The night seems more ordinary, dark and plain, yet ordinary is good, the dark calms the mind, takes away the light, and quiets the conversations, it silences the chaos and speaks of pacification in times of madness and seclusion.

Online Exhibition: DISCOVER 03 by Prameya Art Foundation
Anuj Arora: Unsettled Identities
Viewable till 19th September 2020
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