At the exhibition launch of World War I’s Hidden Voices (6th December – CLICK HERE TO REGISTER) the Manchester actress Rani Moorthy will perform a dramatised reading of a powerful poem reflecting on the effects of the First World War from an Indian and colonised country perspective. She will be accompanied by musician Jaydev Mistry and also VJ projections by Kuljit ‘Kooj’ Chuhan. The poem is by Sarojini Naidu and is titled The Gift Of India, written in 1915 while the war was ravaging.
The exhibition features The Poppy Retake art installation by Kooj Chuhan, the launch event will be on Weds 6th December from 5.30pm and the performance and speakers begin at 6.30pm. More information at www.metaceptive.net/poppy-retake . The event is free but registration is strongly advised at www.hiddenvoicesww1.eventbrite.co.uk . #poppyretake
About Sarojini Naidu
Sarojini Naidu was a distinguished poet, renowned freedom fighter and one of the great orators of her time. She was famously known as Bharatiya Kokila (The Nightingale of India) and was a prolific poet with over three books of published poems, highly praised by Rabindranath Tagore. Sarojini Naidu was the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the governor of a state in India. Continue reading →
India, Africa, the West Indies, colonialism and recruitment, impacts of war and our ongoing culture of war explored in two parallel exhibitions under the title World War One’s Hidden Voices
The Poppy Retake (v3) by Kooj Chuhan // From the Shadows of War and Empire by Southern Voices // #poppyretake
On show 7th December 2017 – 24th February 2018 at Manchester Central Library (First Floor), St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD, UK // Opening times 9am-8pm Mon-Thurs and 9am-5pm Fri-Sat (Sunday closed) Tel. +44 (0)161 234 1983
OPENING NIGHT – 6th December 2017 5.30pm-7.30pm including speakers Ahmed El-Hassan (Southern Voices) and Colette Williams (Mbari), plus live performance from Jaydev Mistry (music), Rani Moorthy (dramatised readings) and Kuljit ‘Kooj’ Chuhan (VJ projection) // First Floor exhibition from 5.30pm, then speakers and performance from 6.30pm on Ground Floor Booking for this free event is strongly advised: www.hiddenvoicesww1.eventbrite.co.uk
MINI-CONFERENCE – 10th February 2018
thought-provoking talks, workshops, films and discussion for World War One’s Hidden Voices– full details to be announced www.metaceptive.net/poppy-retake
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THE POPPY RETAKE (v3)
…colonial narratives, spirits from the dead and video war games…
video art installation by Kooj (Kuljit Singh Chuhan) – new version
Modern war propaganda began with World War I which obscured its pointlessness and deep colonial connections, while pretending to be the ‘war to end all wars’. This artwork explores coercion into war, involving an African woman working for a war-themed park. She finds herself caught between colonial narratives, spirits from the dead and video war games.
Since the end of WWI we have seen numerous wars with the majority in regions once colonised. Modern video gaming is now the epitome of obscuring both the horror and the colonial roots of much conflict. The Poppy Retake suggests our multiple connections with wars as forms of cultural recruitment but which impact mostly on people from ex-colonies. It extends the perspectives developed in the documentary exhibition ‘From The Shadows Of War and Empire’.
Few know about how European powers brought colonies into World War I, took resources from these countries and took the war to ‘fronts’ outside Europe. An exhibition which finally tells this major part of the story from the colonies’ point of view. We focus on India, the West Indies, German and British East Africa, and Nigeria – the British Colonies.
Did you know that the first and last shots of World War One by ‘British’ forces were fired not in Europe, but in Africa? Or that 1.5 million soldiers from India fought for the British? The exhibition examines the impact of 1914-18 on these selected colonised countries from the viewpoint of the colonised peoples themselves – their situation as colonies, the impact of the war on them and on anti-colonial struggles. Accompanied by ‘The Poppy Retake’ art installation by Kooj Chuhan, this exhibition gives us incredible context and information about World War One’s Hidden Voices.
The Community Learning Festival 25th-27th July 2017 at MMU Brooks Building (Birley Fields Campus) is set up to celebrate the diversity of learning happening in the local area https://birleycommunityfestival.wordpress.com/ . It includes a lot of consciousness-raising activities and possibilities for activism towards progressive goals. The Poppy Retake installation is set up there in a compact version, supporting the talk by Southern Voices about Colonialism and WWI, and also Kooj (me) will be delivering a session about using video for community activism with references to The Poppy Retake installation.
The installation looks strong, here is how it looked yesterday (some components might be added today – trying to keep playful with trying things out here):
THE POPPY RETAKE is a new video art installation by Kooj Chuhan with an alternative take on World War I by connecting colonialism and computer games with a systematic war culture. The installation references the involvement of and impact on European Colonies by World War I and was supported by the experiences of the actor, Tracey Zengeni, herself having sought refuge in the UK. Its going to premiere at the fantastic Z-arts centre gallery on Tues 18th April from 6pm, and will be on show there for nearly two weeks. There are full details at www.metaceptive.net/poppy-retake including of the opening preview night. Here is an introductory trailer for the work:
Essential details for The Poppy Retake:
at Z-Arts Gallery, 19-28 April 2017
335 Stretford Road Manchester M15 5ZA 0161 226 1912
Open daily 9am-9pm except Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday closed
PREVIEW: Tues 18th April 6pm
Speakers: Susan Chieni, Kirit Patel and others / Poetry: Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi / Music: Serge Tebu & Emmanuela Yogolelo
FREE ENTRY but booking advised: www.poppyretakeshadows.eventbrite.co.uk
Will wars ever end? Was World War One’s ‘Lest We Forget’ a deluded slogan by Europeans who endured enormous suffering yet ignored even greater calamities for their colonies? Is war in fact the default future human addiction as global economics, culture and inequality spell more conflict forever?
The Poppy Retake is a new piece of video installation art by Kooj Chuhan which poses these questions. The artist Kooj uses dramatic sequences of imagery that mix aspects of culture today, recent conflicts and refugees with world war one and the historical realities for people in previous colonies such as India, East Africa, The West Indies and Nigeria.
Who knows that the first and last shots of World War One were fired not in Europe, but in Africa? Or that 1.5 million soldiers from India fought for the British? The installation will be exhibited together with an extensive series of documentary history panels created by Southern Voices, titled ‘From the Shadows of War and Empire’. In all this will present a unique exhibition taking an African and South Asian perspective on World War One and the role of the British colonies within it.
Art that can re-interpret, re-situate, connecting wars, colonialism, games
Kooj hopes to get people to shift from the usual and massive stereotypical icons of World War I and understand its part in the ongoing process that has got us where we are today, and how young people are influenced and co-opted into cynical acceptance of conflict yet remain oblivious to colonial histories and geopolitical power interests. This war was fuelled by rivalry based much on competing colonial portfolios between European countries, and colonies were enormously affected in critical ways during and after the war.
However, Kooj is quick to point out that, “As an artist my job is not to stuff a load of history down people’s throats, but to draw out a human experience in simple and metaphoric ways that bring people closer to the underlying meanings and hidden agendas of the war.”
The Poppy Retake installation depicts a never ending loop which we can’t get out of, played out through a current character with a refugee connection from today. The work is inspired by resistance to wars and colonialism in history especially the WWI period focusing on narratives that have often been suppressed such as schoolteacher John MacLean from Scotland who was instrumental in the Clyde revolts during and after WWI, or Indian revolutionaries such as Kartar Singh Sarabha, or the many women from East Africa whose families died from a famine made worse by European demands for resources to support the war. Within the installation we encounter hints of these people and events but we remain stuck in a continual loop of wars, games and colonialism which appears to have no end, driven along by a background tempo and video loops which play with ideas of nationalism, patriotism, dissidence, loss and war game videos.
Historical Documentary Exhibition ‘From The Shadows Of War And Empire’ by Southern Voices
Alongside The Poppy Retake installation will be a set of educational panels titled ‘From The Shadows Of War And Empire’ created by Southern Voices about the issues around World War 1 from the perspective of the colonies.
2014 marked 100 years since the start of the World War One (WW1). In a very real way, this was the first global conflict, with war between the European Empires drawing in well over 100 countries.
This project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, examines the involvement of the British colonies (India, West Indies, Nigeria and East Africa) in WW1 and the impact the war had on those countries. Southern Voices look at European imperialism, the devastating losses on the colonies’ own ‘home fronts’ and subsequent strengthening movements for self-rule and independence.
The impact and views of the people in the ‘colonised countries’ are either neglected or absent in commemorative events. This exhibition provides a more balanced account of this global war than is commonly available or known and adds to the connecting of wars, colonialism and wider contexts.