Mixed media on paper in a bound accordion folio
Closed 14 5/8 x 11 1/8 in. (37 x 28.2 cm.), open 14 5/8 x 218 in. (37 x 554 cm.) 18 double-sided painted sheets within a hand-painted front and back cover.
Signed and dated 'N. Malani 92' on front cover
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai.
Nalini Malani responds with visual vehemence to the injustices of contemporary India. Her paintings and installations are vehicles that channel her rage against colonisation, against violence to women and against violence to the earth and the ultimate woman Bharat Mata, Mother India.' (Betty Seid, New Narratives: Contemporary Art from India, New Delhi, 2007, p. 100)
In the early 1990s Nalini Malani created a series of handmade and hand-bound accordion books that included the current work, Cast Off. In a recent conversation with the artist, Nalini explained the particular appeal of the format: 'My first trip out of India was to Japan and that is where I first saw an accordion book, which is a very Japanese format. I bought one book there, at the age of twelve, and I tried to copy it by binding another myself. Even this current book is handmade by me... The idea of the book was started out of an exigency that I was facing, as I lost my studio for a while, when it had to go under repair. The book allowed me to make long pictures that could be folded up, and I could even work on them, bit by bit. That actually fed into the story telling of how one could make different formations of the book depending on how one wanted to juxtapose the paintings with each other. One had different ways of telling the stories. That was its particular appeal.'
The basis of the narrative for the current book is based around a pun of its title, Cast Off. The manuscript works at three different levels simultaneously: the book relates to the caste system of India, it refers to the phrase 'cast off' in marine parlance, and, it references when something is cast during the process of manufacturing.
The artist elaborates further, stating, 'Some of the images are to do with the tribal communities who were being examined by anthropologists from Europe, which were largely German missionaries... many of them were in the Northeast, who set up churches there with some amount of conversions. It was, for me, very interesting how this other culture was getting absorbed into the tribal culture, and I was very curious about how this would play out. These are things that have pre-occupied me on many registers in my works.
She continues, 'Then, of course, cast off, as in a reference to the indentured labour that was taken by the British, after slavery was abolished, as labourers to Mauritius and other islands for manpower to cut sugar cane. These are the main registers on which I based the book. There are images of that nature, but also images which relate to the street level of Mumbai. I had my studio in an area of Mumbai called Lohar Chawl. This area is a wholesale market area, and my studio was on the fourth floor of a walk-up building in the electric bazaar, where switch gears were being transported from the wholesalers to the retailers. These switch gears were made by big industrial companies, but they were being carried in a very medieval kind of way in wicker baskets and on handcarts. These anomalies of the method of transport, or how the coolie system was still being used on behalf of business people; this is what one part of the book depicts. The book is really about the dispossessed, about the people who have not had the chance to really come up in the social hierarchy of India. This is what the work is about.'
We would like to thank Nalini Malani for explaining the various sources of inspiration for the work.
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The paper tones of the original where unpainted appear paler and the colours of the original are slightly brighter than the catalogue illustrations. The hand painted front and back covers are rubbed, with abrasions and losses to the pigment surface, especially around the edges of both covers. The bindings of the front and back covers where they are joined to the main body of the book had become fragile and have been strengthened with conservation tape.Each page of the book has been joined by the artist to the next page with brown paper, some of these joints appear somewhat fragile with minor tears and losses to the extreme edges of the paper. Minor staining to some of the pages, not visible in the catalogue illustration. Overall fair condition.
About The Artist:
NALINI MALANI (b. 1946)