Partition Of India & Communal Riots, Anti-Memorial Art Now Displayed In Chicago

The anti-memorial uses dharapatras, which are copper pots with a spouted bottom and traditionally drip water or milk onto Hindu deities. They are combined in this work with havankunds, which are copper containers that are used to light the holy fire in Hindu temples.

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‘Memory Leaks: Drips and Traces’ uses 17 dharapatras, which have all been etched with the place and year of a communal riot, creating a timeline of ethnic violence since 1947 to present time. Water drips from these installations onto 17 paired havankunds, each containing partially burnt book pages and newspapers written in Urdu, the language spoken by Muslims in India and Pakistan.

The artist uses these burnt books and newspapers to allude to the use of arson in these riots that specifically target and burn Muslim houses and shops razing them to the ground.

The violence of 1947 has been replicated by the communal riots that occur in India, and Pritika Chowdhry encourages viewers of her project to memorialize the victims of these riots. They can do this by pouring water into the dharapatras, which animates the memory of that communal riots and allows them to actively create a ‘memory leak’.

The installation is designed to create a timeline of the periodic riots and raises awareness of the issues faced in long-running conflicts throughout the country. Exhibited at the South Asia Institute of Chicago it marks the 75th anniversary of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.

Pritika Chowdhry describes herself as a socio-political feminist artist, and her work revolves around the notion of creating ‘anti-memorials’ to traumatic events throughout history. Previous projects have examined civil and military wars, terrorist attacks, and more.

Her work is designed to be quietly provocative, and incorporates visceral materials that allow the viewer to play a central role in the experience. Images and video of the work on her website showcase the Memory Leaks anti-memorial.

The artist states: “I am appropriating the dharapatras and havans as objects loaded with ritualistic significance and reinscribing them as containers of history that tenaciously hold and incessantly leak the counter-memories of communal violence into the present day.”

Interested readers can learn more at

Pritika Chowdhry LLC

Swami Vivekananda Way

United States

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