The cries, too, fall like rain in summer

“Varunika Saraf’s work takes its title from the closing line of Bertolt Brecht’s poem, ‘When Evil Doing Comes Like Falling Rain’, which speaks of the horrors that a tyranny enacts. Every fresh horror imposes silence: the tyranny mounts, “the blood goes on flowing”. The portrait of an archetypal city, ‘The cries, too, fall like rain in summer’ comprises an ensemble of individually rendered elements: heads; the occasional skull; figures pictured in variegated stances; an array of buildings embodying varied locations and styles. Structurally, it is modelled on representations of the later Mughal imperial hierarchy, with courtiers organised like a solar system in relation to the central, legitimising authority of the emperor. Saraf translates this model for the present: her chart is occupied by flashpoints of political crisis, social atrocity, outrage or demonstration. At the centre, instead of the emperor, is a miniature rendition of Munch’s hallucinatory, still-terrifying painting, ‘The Scream’.”

Ranjit Hoskote, “How to Belong – Dwelling Part One”, Artforum, 2016.

 

There is no exit gate for this city; this city of dark unending labyrinths, containing the howls and laments of numerous oppressed bodies are bereft of any escape from the brutal oppression. In Varunika Saraf’s visually detailed and meticulously researched The cries, too, fall like rain in summer, one encounters the multitude tormented in an unending cycle of political violence. The tribulations of these dispossessed are scattered throughout this landscape, similar to the medieval map of a city, spinning a new history against the forgetfulness of the violence meted out on those who were displaced, killed and discriminated in our attempt to be “modern” and “developed”. Saraf’s magnum opus is an attempt to recast history narrated from the perspective of the vanquished, it is a radical attempt to reclaim the role of memory to remind us again and again about the failures of the foundational moments of this nation, to warn us against the onslaught of fascism. Using archival images of the lesser known incidents of political violence comprising of riots, atrocities against dalits and adivasis, displacements, state violence and communal onslaught, Saraf has painstakingly created more than thousand drawings to foreground an alternative history of modern India. Scattered throughout this haunting landscapes are legions of faces with varied captivating expressions. Faces with frowns, evident on their temples, of mythic histories and violent invasions. There is a face with a thought. Its essence is of indifference. Dreary. Exhausted from centuries of exodus, of violence. Running from forest to forest, hiding in archives. Escaping the arrows of twice-born. A face with sunken eyes, drowned in those pits. History is never stored in that reservoir. Those faces raining everywhere. Thunders erupting from their mouths. Faces of tears. Their cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

Premjish Achari, 2016