Skye Arundhati Thomas

  • film January 04, 2021

    Caste Away

    “A BRAHMIN MUST BE A CULTURAL SUICIDE BOMBER,” writes Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters (2019). In other words, a brahmin must enter the upper-caste corridors of power to which only they have access, and detonate. Several indisputable facts underscore this statement: Wealth and influence in India are under the sole proprietorship of the upper castes. Maintained primarily through endogamy and nepotism, this hegemony continues to exploit and deplete the labor and emotional reserves of lower caste people. The responsibility of anti-caste work must fall on those that have access to the networks

  • film July 03, 2020

    God Child

    IN THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE of Ramy’s first season, the eponymous Egyptian American protagonist finds himself at a party in Cairo. Everyone is doing coke and listening to house music. Ramy would rather be at a mosque. He’s in Egypt on a spiritual quest: He wants to feel closer to God, “eat authentic shit,” and “get clarity.” He’s an eager diaspora kid, the kind who talks to everyone in Arabic even though they all speak perfect English (“My English is premium; I went to AUC: American University in Cairo, baby,” his cousin Shadi retorts), wants to visit all the “cool mosques,” and is thrilled to

  • slant May 01, 2020

    Letter from India

    NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, identity papers, and crumpled, bloodstained notes lie next to pair of folded trousers. The photograph was taken by Kashmiri photographer Masrat Zahra, the items carefully arranged on a lavender cloth, embroidered with red and blue flowers, by Arifa Jan, the widow of Abdul Qadir Sheikh. Sheikh was shot by the Indian Army in 2000; we are looking at what was in his pockets on the day he died. Sheikh’s death was the result of an “encounter killing”—confrontations staged between suspected militants and state forces that most often result in unarmed civilian deaths. There is little

  • Golam Kasem Daddy

    A young girl, spider lilies tucked into her hair, smiles as she chews on a stalk of wheat. Behind her, a crinkled cloth sheet hangs in the sun. Titled simply Happy girl. Dacca, 1957, the photograph is one of the thirty-two black-and-white giclée prints in “When the Mind Says Yes,” a solo exhibition of Golam Kasem (1894–1998), who is widely considered the father of modern photography in Bangladesh and is better known as “Daddy.” In this image, his young subject wears hoop earrings and a pearl necklace. Her nails are painted, and stacked bangles encircle her wrist. Settled into her pose with

  • picks January 29, 2020

    Dayanita Singh

    “I think in books,” says Dayanita Singh. Early in her career, Singh would cut up her medium-format contact sheets and paste them into accordion notebooks that could be unraveled and displayed. Bookmaking, for Singh, is a way by which to understand the photographs she takes. This exhibition, “Zakir Hussain’s Maquette,” consists of a book, its spreads, and an accompanying foldout poster pinned onto the gallery walls. Specifically, what’s on display is a facsimile of a maquette Singh made as a student in 1968 titled “Zakir Hussain,” a photo-essay full of meticulously handwritten notes, measurements,

  • picks December 13, 2019

    Atef Maatallah

    Atef Maatallah chases ruins. Although his photorealist pencil-on-paper drawings take us to the Roman archaeological site of Thuburbo Majus in Tunisia, theirs is a more detached ruin lust. It’s not the crumpled architecture Maatallah is after, but what happens inside of what remains. In Les Linges de Junon (all works cited, 2018), a wrinkled plastic bag slaps against a stone archway as two dresses are strung to a Corinthian column—hung out to dry—swelling in the breeze. In Pugilats, a plastic water bottle rolls onto a mosaic of two ancient Greek boxers, joined by a squeezed plastic cup. In Le

  • Naeem Mohaiemen

    Families, if you look closely enough, tell the big histories. In 2010, Naeem Mohaiemen found a small cardboard box as he cleared things from the old family home in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inside, he discovered wrapped in wax paper more than a hundred negatives, carefully labeled in his father’s handwriting. These images became the subject of Mohaiemen’s film Rankin Street, 1953, 2013, where he shows us the photographs and provides narration. This year, he revisited these images with a suite of transfer prints, Baksho Rohoshyo (Chobi Tumi Kar?) (Mystery Box [Photo, Who Do You Love?]), 2019, made from

  • picks July 19, 2019

    “Mutarerium”

    Only what mutates can survive in curator Adwait Singh’s ecologically oriented three-person exhibition, titled after an amalgam of terrarium and mutare, the Latin word for the verb change. Priyanka D’Souza’s How to Unromanticise the Anthropocene, 2018, charts a history of industrial whaling and marine pollution across four panels delicately painted in a Deccan miniature style. Two works zoom in on the interior of a whale’s stomach permeated by a plastiglomerate—a new geological hybrid formed when plastic melts into lava, shells, coral, wood, and sand, glinting in the rock like confetti. Displayed

  • picks April 06, 2019

    Sadik Kwaish Alfraji

    In Iraqi artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s five-minute animation The River That Was in the South (all works cited, 2019), things melt into each other with great speed. In one sequence, large-petaled flowers turn into smiling faces, which darken to become sleepy, blinking eyelids. Plucking a single moment from the film is like trying to hold on to running water. Nothing can be separated from what precedes or follows it. Alfraji’s understanding of time is liquid; what has happened in the past continues to bleed into the present. His preferred media-jet-black illustrations and stop-motion shorts made

  • picks March 13, 2019

    Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

    In a photograph by Aishwarya Arumbakkam on display at the Government College of Fine Arts, long, slim fingers pull shiny, wet organs over a pile of flat stones. It’s more beautiful than brutal: a tender imagining of someone grabbing at the remains of something lost. In the series “Ahp,” 2016, Arumbakkam animates an old Cambodian myth about a female ghost ostracized and feared by village life.

    At the Senate House, several card cutouts of blown-up images lie staggered on a zig-zagging table in a stained-glass room, each image carefully excised from the photojournalist archive of The Hindu—a leading

  • diary February 11, 2019

    Sharp Critique

    THE MOST LAVISH PARTIES coinciding with India Art Fair are the midday brunches: As the sun pelts through the now characteristically hazardous air pollution, attendees reach for the Bloody Marys. At one such event, hosted at the home of Shalini Passi, founder of the Shalini Passi Art Foundation, banners shifted in the wind, declaring: Lunch is Cancelled. In a performance, artist Mithu Sen paraded out of the house, followed by a marching band, and servers were wearing anti-lick recovery cones for pets around their necks. Sen wore a cone with a special blond frill. Passi’s black pug, adorned with

  • picks December 07, 2018

    Nikhil Chopra

    The air is thin in Nikhil Chopra’s drawings. They take us to high altitudes: In Sundersar, 2018, we are at a lake 3,900 meters above sea level in Kashmir, where the water stretches across the scene like a transparent sheet. The “Lands, Waters & Skies” of the show’s title are smudged together in oil pastel, turpentine, and charcoal on paper. In Jadsar, 2018, Chopra chases sunlight over ragged mountains, through the center of which slips a small mercury-silver stream. A number of works in the series correspond to Chopra’s seventy-five-mile walk across Kashmir’s Liddar Valley, where he travelled