Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Ideal Diaspora

Recently I wrote on my blog about the changing shifting states of my bedroom, a space that continually provides me with some measure of physical artistic freedom. And yet, a few days ago I was having a little moan about the constraint of living within the sphere of four walls, imagining myself one of Michelangelo's unfinished works of captives within marble, attempting freedom, never to be freed. Or like Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern; a vast carpet of porcelain replica seeds, each hand painted and hand fired by inhabitants of Jingdezhen, free to be stepped upon by the public, but none to be opened, none to bear fruit.

That same day, the Telegraph magazine arrived, with James Mollison's photographs of children's bedrooms all over the world. From Ciudade de Deus in Brazil to the Yunnan province in China, a Palestinian refugee camp in Hebron to the Rendille tribe in northern Kenya, the gulf of inequalities and the bridges of similarity are all here - from the guns (for fun, Kentucky) and the axes (for work, Senegal and Kathmandu) to the dolls, the beauty pageant queens and future rabbis (Tokyo, Kentucky and Beitar Illit). This here on the left is Roathy, who is eight and lives on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. His home sits on a huge rubbish dump and his mattress is made from old tyres. He shares the space with five thousand others.

The final picture is of my elder brother, who is at this very moment in Phnom Penh, where Roathy is. They probably will not encounter one another. But then again, life is strange and powerful encounters await us at every turn and on every journey. Rizwan's globo-social projects include just such encounters. I am not sure what he remembers of his bedroom in Bombay. It was a multi-purpose room for most of our childhood. I had torn out posters of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa from a Hello magazine above my bed, I think he had his own drawing of Bruce Lee for a while. What we shared was the light pouring in from the windows and rain from the balcony, love from our parents and friends and books and games and lullabies and prayers bookending our days and beginning our nights. I love this picture. It contains everything. The ancient stone carvings of Angkor Wat, a book, a travelling rucksack, light and his smile.


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  2. This is beautiful, Shaista. The last part about what you shared with your brother is as shimmering in fraternal love as the photo of him that you so warmly describe and include. Inspired by your post, I am including a link to the Telegraph article with the Mollison photos

  3. i love these kinds of intersections in life. beautifully writ and felt.

  4. When Shaista lets her mind outside her four walls, the world envisioned is vast and beautiful, bringing in the unexpected. That photo of your brother really does say it all, doesn't it?

    I can't help believing that even the boy in Phnom Penh has his beautiful shared family moments and memories, even in the unthinkable living environment in which he lives. I do hope so. I remember seeing my friend Sidney's photographs of slum dwellers along the railroads in the Philippines, in which the "inhabitants" had created neat, orderly outdoor rooms. There is great distinction in this, I think, to be able to live nobly under such circumstances.

    And you do this, also, Shaista, with your physical circumstances, living nobly.

  5. Your brother looks like a sensitive man. None of us have it all...we just need to value what we have.....

  6. The differences in childrens' lives depending on where they live and how they live, can be chilling.

    Roathy's story is not unusual in so many parts of the world - today I was asked to make a donation to UNICEF. I asked if they knew where the money would go and was told 'to disabled' children. Many of the world's children are 'disabled' in so many ways, not physically alone. If only we could do more.

    The bond you share with your brother is touching. Beautiful.

  7. What a remarkably aware and awake post. I am touched by your brother's marvelous photo and by your love for its broader meaning.

  8. Have you read this blog? The writer is currently also in Phnom Penh.