Above left: Heirloom (II), 2018
, Used saris, embroidery thread
. Basha Chakrabarti
Diasporic Arts Series
"Materials of Empire: Networks of Atlantic and Indian Ocean Exchange"
A discussion with
Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Princeton) and
Bhasha Chakrabarti (MFA Candidate, Yale)
This discussion focuses on the material histories of cotton and its circulations across the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Drawing from her book, Anna Arabindan-Kesson pays particular attention to the ways cotton framed meanings of race and labor and how these histories are addressed in the work of contemporary artists today.
Professor Anna Arabindan-Kesson is Assistant professor of African American and Black Diasporic art with a joint appointment in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. She is a Visiting Fellow, Center for The Study of Social Difference at Columbia. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed undergraduate degrees in New Zealand and Australia, and earned her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University. She is the director of Art Hx, a digital humanities project and object database that addresses the intersections of art, race and medicine in the British empire.
Prof. Arabindan-Kesson's research and teaching focus on Black Diaspora Art, with an emphasis on histories of race, empire, and medicine in the long 19th century. She also has interests in British, South Asian and Australian art. Her first book is Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World (2021). Works in progress include “An Empire State of Mind: Plantation Imaginaries, Colonial Medicine and Ways of Seeing,” and a book project with Professor Mia Bagneris (Tulane), “Beyond Recovery: Reframing the Dialogues of Nineteenth-Century Black Diaspora Art.”
Bhasha Chakrabarti is an artist whose practice explores art-making as a process of mending. Her works span painting, filmmaking, and installation, and draw on the transformative and reparative possibilities of darning, weaving, and quilting in order to address the rifts and tears in our social fabric. Having lived and practiced in Honolulu, Santiniketan, New York, New Delhi, and New Haven, she is interested in how the materiality of cloth signals multiple structures of production and trade that are tangled in the crisscrossing weave of human histories and geographies. This along with the intimacy of clothing being ‘second skin’, allows Bhasha to transform mending and the repurposing of used clothing into a metaphor for rethinking identities or subjectivities as embedded in global systems of exclusions and privilege. Bhasha is currently completing her MFA in Painting at the Yale School of Art. She has recently had exhibitions at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles and the Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore. Her work will also be part of forthcoming exhibitions at Experimenter Gallery in Kolkata, Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York, and the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh.