DEF organised its sixth DEFdialogue on July 27, 2018, this time with Aanchal Malhotra. Aanchal is a New Delhi-based multidisciplinary artist, writer and oral historian working with memory and material culture. She is also the co-founder of the digital Museum of Material Memory. She is interested in banality, acts of recollection and the malleability of our memory. Her projects explore the written word, various forms of the book and the versatility of traditional printmaking. They consider notions of cultural diaspora, withdrawing from or belonging to a certain place, collective experiences, and importance of family history and genealogy.
Third generation of the Bahrisons Booksellers family, Aanchal has grown up surrounded by books and the written word, and thus it wasn’t a surprise when she came out with her first book Remnants of a Separation, about the belongings carried by refugees to either side of the border during the Partition of India in 1947, earlier this year.
Yet, when she began working on the project to document the Partition of 1947 through material memory, initially a visual art project for her Master in Fine Arts, she had no clue that she would end up writing a book.
During the DEFdialogue, Aanchal shared several stories of suffering, hate, hope, love and friendship that she came across during her research for the book, in India and Pakistan. She described how she struggled to keep herself content when she heard stories of bloodshed during partition while on the other, stories of hope brought smile on her face. She said that at times it was difficult to interview people, at times languages became barriers but she overcame it.