An exiled refugee has made the journey from Pakistan into one of India’s group exhibitions.
Khadim Ali, born of Afghan Hazara parentage, fled Afghanistan in the 90s to escape Taliban persecution.
Ali studied in Tehran and Lahore before moving to Sydney in 2009, where he earned a Master of Fine Art at UNSW Art & Design.
The UNSW alumnus is represented among an outstanding international selection of artists in Delhi's Babur ki Gai exhibition.
Babur ki Gai, curated by Adwait Singh, presents the work of 19 artists who experiment with folklore and mythology to question socio-political concerns. As such, heroes and villains, dragons and demons, gods, goddesses and legendary leaders regularly make an appearance.
The exhibition takes its title from a key work in the show by the artist Priyanka D’Souza. D’Souza claims to have recovered lost pages from the Baburnama folio, a fundamental text in Indian history which provided revelations into the literary, intellectual and cultural work of Babur, founder of the Mughal empire.
An Afghan war rug, that was thought to be partially destroyed when a bomb hit Ali’s home in 2011, also features in the exhibition. Upon repairing the rug, Ali implanted some of his own experience into the reconstruction thus, creating art.
Originally hand-woven by refugees fleeing Afghanistan, the wool rug centres on a mythical, a demon-like creature with horns. Featuring donkey-like ears and long, white beard, the figure manifests itself from the 11th-century Persian epic poem the Shahnameh. Part mythology and part history, Shahnameh, tells the story of a hero named Rustam, who was said to embody both good and evil.
Above the demon in the rug hangs a canopy of golden eucalyptus foliage. The native flora is reflective of the pages of the Australian passport Ali received in 2015. Both Rustam and the foliage are common motifs within Ali’s practice.
War rugs are a tradition of Afghanistan and capture the history of turmoil and violence in the country post the Soviet invasion in 1979.
Khadim Ali’s work has been exhibited in a number of prominent galleries such as the Guggenheim, Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.