Artist and scholar Annu Palakunnathu Matthew sheds light on a lesser-known aspect of World War II through her work based on archival photographs of Indian soldiers. Two and a half million Indians fought in the mountains of southeast Asia, the hills of Italy, and the deserts of North Africa. Thirty of them won Victoria crosses, and more than 87,000 died. Yet, in India and globally, they remain largely unremembered.
On her recent Fulbright Fellowship, Matthew crowdsourced family photos and stories from some of these families. This material has become the basis for her ongoing experimentations, including a recent installation commissioned for the 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennale. In her presentation and discussion with curator Asma Naeem, Matthew parses out the confluence of factors that played a role in this history complicated by Partition. Through a striking blend of still and moving image, her work prompts us to consider the incompleteness of our historical narratives and the political dimensions of historical forgetfulness.
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew is a multimedia artist, photographer, and Professor of Art at the University of Rhode Island, where she has also served as Director of the Center for the Humanities and Silvia-Chandley Professor of Nonviolence and Peace Studies. She is represented by the gallery sepiaEYE in New York City. Asma Naeem is the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art and a specialist in American art and contemporary Islamic art. She was previous associate curator at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and received her PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park. Carol Huh became the first curator of contemporary art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, in 2007. Huh focuses on current artistic production related to Asia through exhibitions, acquisitions, and public programs.