Gujarat’s Memon migrants to find portrayal at Biennale

Sunday, Dec 7, 2014,21:26 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Kochi | Two centuries after they moved into this backwater port city from the parched lands of western India, the famed Abad business family here will feature in a major photo exhibition being organised as part of the upcoming KochiMuziris Biennale (KMB) 2014. Images of the Kutchi Memon household between the 1950s and ’70s will line up next week at a show that forms one of the partner projects at the second edition of KMB starting on December 12.
Titled ‘Ummijaan: Making Visible a World Within’, the three and a half month long exhibition will open in suburban Mattancherry on December 13, providing glimpses into the history of a community that tracks origins to Sindh in presentday Pakistan. The Aasiya Bai Trust Hall will house 66 photographs taken by veteran Haleema Hashim at the show being curated by her greatgrandson Nihaal Faisal, organisers said today.
KMB director of programmes Riyas Komu described Ummijaan as a ‘fantastic archive’ of the life and times in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry by a person who was dedicated to the photographic medium. The show is a tribute to a true artistic spirit, he said. Haleema, now 86, herself belongs to the Memon family of Kutch province of what is now Gujarat and started clicking pictures after she moved to her marital home in Fort Kochi. Her husband Hashim Usman had a shop at Chullikkal, where a friend gifted him with a camera.
That Yashika SLR became a crucial means for Haleema to capture images subsequently, notes Nihaal about her greatgrandma who lives in a Kochi apartment and is of late suffering from failing memory. Haleema, who could speak and read four languages including English and Urdu, pored over reference books on photography and started clicking her familywomen, children and brides.
She never shot pictures of men, though she took snaps of her husband, adds a 20yearold Nihaal, who is studying at the Bangalorebased Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. As a migrant in Kochi where she settled in Yasmin Manzil after marriage at the age of 17, Haleema shot hundreds of photos. The exhibition, which features 66 of them in blackandwhite as well as colour, will conclude on March 29, 2015 the day KMB ends as well.