A University of Rhode Island professor, whose sabbatical exhibition is currently on display at the Fine Arts Center gallery, spoke about her work at a lecture on Tuesday afternoon.
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew discussed “Open Wound,” a photographic exhibit on display on the Fine Arts Center. The exhibit details the 1947 Partition of India, in which Pakistan split from India. The division caused considerable discontent and displacement in the affected regions of the countries.
The exhibition uses vintage photographs dating from the Partition, which are then superimposed with newer photographs of the subject’s descendants.
The resulting photographic animations include text that details the effects the Partition had on citizens of the two countries. The animations recount family separation, forced immigration and the seizure of homes and land by the government.
According to Matthew, 15 million people were displaced and more than 1 million died during the course Â of a three-month period.
“When I studied in India, we did not even study the Partition and there’s nothing to commemorate the event,” she said. “There have been academic oral histories done, but nothing that makes it more accessible to a larger public, so that was what my task was.”
She said that one of the reasons she named her exhibit “Open Wound” was because the Partition is not often discussed in India and remains a subject of tension between India and Pakistan.
“It hasn’t been resolved and it’s part of the reason that there continues to be tensions and riots between Hindus and Muslims,” she said.
Matthew, who was born in England and moved with her family to their native India when she was 14, said she was influenced by the different cultures she grew up around and found herself in.
Aside from “Open Wound,” she discussed some of her earlier art and photography projects.
Among these was “Memories of India,” which she put together after graduate school and captured the Indian culture she grew up around.
“I go photographing in the culture using a $20 toy camera called a Holga, and one of the reasons for doing that is that it creates a vignette around the edges which makes the image look more like a memory,” Matthew said. “Plus when I walk around the streets in India, people don’t get distracted by this big camera and say ‘photo, photo,’ they look at me with this toy camera and don’t take me very seriously.”
A book of Matthew’s “Memories of India” photographs was published earlier this month by the Portland, Oregon-based Blue Sky Gallery.
Matthew’s “Open Wound” exhibit will be open in the Fine Arts Center gallery through Nov. 7.