Coalitionist Sabahat Ali Wani Receives Research Grant

…and a few questions with the Indie Author

We’d like to extend a shoutout and huge congratulations to coalitionist Sabahat Ali Wani (CW7) on receiving a grant from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives!

Press Release

Earlier this year, Sabahat Ali Wani, a Kashmiri researcher, writer and critic, received an individual research grant from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives for her independent research project, “Visual Art and Resistance in Kashmir”. With the help of FfAI’s research grant (2024-2025), she is currently studying and critically analysing the visual arts-resistance scene of Kashmir from the decolonial feminist lens. As the product of her ongoing research and travel, she aims to document her research findings in the form of a book-length work, driven by the need to examine the art space of Kashmir from a radical, politically-aware position of feminism. Till now, in her research, she has studied various intersecting research topics/themes, including but not limited to—colonial, masculinist gaze(s) and photography; vulnerability and exposures in photography; art and colonial beautification; mobility, murals and resistance; spaces and language of graffiti, and the portrayal and politics of bodies in Kashmir’s visual art.

Congratulations on your research grant! What is the current resistance-arts scene like in Kashmir?

Thank you. Well, visual arts specifically, has been a medium of expression in all societies and Kashmir is no exception. However, given the existing militarised state of Kashmir, visual artists do try to express themselves as much as they can in the extreme climate of repression, censorship and continuous looming threats to their lives, living and livelihood. Apart from that, I do feel that in Kashmir, as we employ and talk about the ‘resistance arts’ as an umbrella term, we shouldn’t depersonalise it, homogenise it and reduce it to categories. There are separate art mediums, but that doesn’t mean there is no intermediality, learning or communication between different forms, artists and geographies. In Kashmir, visual arts and its intersection with resistance is multi-layered; therefore, it cannot be documented, appreciated or critiqued without recognising the same in the first place. 

When did you first become politically aware? And how do you apply the decolonial feminist lens in your work?

Being politically aware, I would say, is a process. Some moments in our lives do have a significant impact on us but overall, I believe that there is always something to learn and unlearn for us. And before employing feminist philosophy in my work as a site of its realisation, seeing oneself being invisibilised, misrepresented and reductively defined by colonial, masculinist gazes in the news, films and texts, fueled a personal sort of interest in me to take it up professionally. I agree with Lola Olufemi, as she writes in her book, Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power (2020) that through our feminist work, we need to remind ourselves that feminism belongs to no one. And that is how I approach my work too, with no desire to make my work more palatable for the audience, craving a homogenous belongingness. With no set conventions or boundaries, I allow myself to think and work in an experimental, critically charged place of writing and research, where I see feminism as a growing, evolving project.

Can you share the beginnings of your feminist magazine Maaje Zevwe? What made you want to start this community?

I thought about a feminist space like Maaje Zevwe in the final year of my graduation but truth be told, I never imagined that it would be at the place it is now. Maaje Zevwe means ‘mother tongue’ in Kashmiri and through this growing initiative, we wanted to bring out the bold, critical and unapologetic tongue(s) of Kashmiri women, their experiences and memories. In our recent issue, Yaarbal: Letters From Kashmir, with the help of a project grant from the Maypole Fund, we were able to collect diverse and dissenting voices of Kashmiri women in the form of letters, and in the future too, we aim to experiment and think of different ways to be a home for the creative, feminist musings of Kashmiri women. 

What is your hope for the future?

These days, I love to use the phrase, “with and against others”, which I read in one of Zeynep Gambetti’s works and I do feel that what is needed to make a future worth living for is somewhere there, almost that – standing with and against each other. Living in a world, where we are being told and fed this idea that ‘oh but there’s no alternative’, we have to realise that conscious, cunning attempts are being made to colonise our socio-political imaginations, to cripple our resistances and solidarities. And we have to come forward and reject it. Resist and reject it.

Thanks so much for being a part of coalitionworks Sabahat: congratulations on your grant and all the best on your research and incredibly important work!

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