The Parliament of Bodies: Were the anxieties around immigration and globalization any different in antiquity?
with Dr. Naman P. Ahuja and Natasha Ginwala

Talk and discussion
8–10 pm
Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz 18, Kassel
Live stream available

There are fears that globalization is making different cultural identities homogeneous, yet it often enables a cosmopolitanism that enables different local practices to coexist although some differences collapse. Similar ideas can be seen in the past as well.

In an extraordinary visual effort to bring together diverse religious communities, the Buddhist goddess Hariti in Gandhara began to be shown with children that came from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Greece, and mainland India. Viewed from the perspective of these diverse children, she might not actually have been the Buddhist Hariti to them all. While the Greeks thought of her as Demeter, the Egyptians probably regarded her as Isis, and the Hindus as a matrika. In an age of diaspora, we often think about how a single image can be made to communicate to diverse people. What can the art of Gandhara tell us?

Similarly, an image for the Bodhisattva Vajrapani was created in such a way that he could be read either as the Zoroastrian Behram, or the Roman Hercules. Indra doubled as Zeus; Shiva as Oesho and Dionysius.

This talk provides a close reading of some of these extraordinary iconographic developments in Gandhara in order to show what kind of images emerged in that multicultural society. Images, it will be seen, can be polyvalent, or sometimes syncretic; however, as we shall see in this talk they also accommodate differences.

In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut

Naman P. Ahuja is a expert on Indian sculpture and iconography. He is Professor of Indian Art and Architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and Editor of Marg. He is widely published: as a Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, he authored a comprehensive catalog of its ancient Indian collections. His book The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad (Routledge, 2011), provided a case study of the impact of the Arts and Crafts Movement on India. The Body in Indian Art and Thought (Ludion, Antwerp, 2013, also in French and Dutch) explores a variety of historic and aesthetic approaches to what drives people to make images. And most recently, The Arts and Interiors of Rashtrapati Bhavan: Lutyens and Beyond, (co-edited with Partha Mitter, Publications Division of India 2016), explores the politics of the interior design of the presidential palace in India. He has been the curator in charge of Indian sculpture at the British Museum in addition to curating several exhibitions independently, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Zurich, the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and at SOAS, his alma mater.

Posted in Public Programs

The Parliament of Bodies: The Strategy of Joy

with Ross Birrell, Nita Deda, Hendrik Folkerts, Dimitris Ginosatis, Natasha Ginwala, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Balitronica Gómez, Jack Halberstam, Trajal Harrell, Candice Hopkins, iQhiya, Élisabeth Lebovici, Catherine Malabou, Joar Nango, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Paul B. Preciado, Ibrahim Quraishi, Roee Rosen, Dim Sampaio, and Adam Szymczyk

A paradox lies at the heart of contemporary democratic societies concerning the center of the politics of representations of their parliaments: They have gradually turned into ensembles joined by fear…


Unnatural Appetites and Numberless Victims. A Brief History of Starvation in South Asia.

with Madhusree Mukerjee and Natasha Ginwala

Devastating famines were routine in British India, resulting from the way in which the colony was forcibly incorporated into the global economy. For almost two centuries, revenues flowed from the colony…


Matter Form Facture

with Geeta Kapur and Natasha Ginwala

The choice of the title, Matter Form Facture, signals my continued engagement with a materialist aesthetic that counterbalances the disdain with which conceptual, mediatic, and textual forms of contemporaneity…


In Memoriam: Lala Rukh (1948–2017)

by Natasha Ginwala

During a visit to Lahore in September 2015, we converged in Lala’s home; the door to her backyard garden lay open and a light breeze drifted in. I soon learned that this garden had been transformed into…


The documenta 14 Reader and documenta 14: Daybook

with Ross Birrell, Moyra Davey, Natasha Ginwala, Hiwa K, Quinn Latimer, Isabell Lorey, Adam Szymczyk, and Katerina Tselou

Please join documenta 14 Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk and Editor-in-Chief of Publications Quinn Latimer in celebrating the publications of The documenta 14 Reader and documenta 14: Daybook (both Prestel…


Native Foreigners

with Natasha Ginwala, Kyrillos Sarris, and Cecilia Vicuña

Guests open up current forms and strategies of artistic self-determination beyond, behind, or within institutions. The program brings together fans and scholars alike across space and time, for discussions…