>>> Maryam Jafri’s show probes sovereignty’s aftermath

MARYAM JAFRI at Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga (3359 Mississauga) to March 6. 905-828-3789. Rating: NNNN Maryan Jafri's travelling exhibit.


MARYAM JAFRI at Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga (3359 Mississauga) to March 6. 905-828-3789. Rating: NNNN


Maryan Jafri’s travelling exhibit The Day After is excerpted from a bewilderingly vast and complex archival project called Independence Day 1934-1975. Jafri has spent the last decade collecting photographs from government archives detailing the first 24 hours of newly sovereign independent nations across Asia and Africa. 

Many of the images show formal signings of independence and sovereignty treaties. These historic transfers of power from European colonizers have all the calm, staid pomp one would expect. There are also official photographs of the raising of new flags, first addresses by new leaders and wild, spontaneous street celebrations. 

Other photos show the storms that followed: street riots in Indonesia and Algeria following secession from the Netherlands and France, crowds stirring with anxiety and unrest. 

Also on view is media evidence of the sordid backstories that accompanied these shifts in power. A New York Times clipping relates that a newly sovereign Indonesia was told to pay back the Netherlands 4.3 billion Dutch guilders to defray the Netherlands’ expenditures in the year-long war of Indonesian independence. Repaying your former colonizers for the cost of a war they waged and lost seems beyond absurd, but it’s only one injustice among many. 

The project explores governments’ restriction of access to information in our contemporary digital culture. No photographs or documents were released, for instance, by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, though many are freely available on the internet. 

The murky internecine legacies of colonialism and post-colonialism bubble uncomfortably under the surface of Jafri’s still-growing archive. Part of an ongoing research project, this exhibition constitutes an invaluable resource for those new to the subject and for scholars of post-colonialism and global politics.

art@nowtoronto.com

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