A SPACE FOR HEALING
Museum of Partition
WHEN SHE BEGAN ASKING people to share their stories of Partition and give her one object that they had brought with them, Kishwar Desai, a writer and an artist, was trying to archive the biggest migration in history for which there are written records and photographs but no artefact. Coming from one such family, she remembers how her grandfather never spoke of things left behind. Or even the pain. There had to be a space for catharsis where people could share their own experience of Partition and help personalise its history.
Like the phulkari coat Pritam Kaur Mianwali, then 22, brought with her when she fled from Gujranwala. “When Pritam Kaur crossed the border with a bag slung across her shoulder she had just this phulkari coat among her few precious possessions—a small comfort in her traumatic sojourn, and a reminder of happier days.” Likewise, Bhagwan Singh Maini, then 30, carried with him a leather briefcase that held his degrees as well as his property documents. They got married in the refugee camp in 1948. “These (the coat and the leather briefcase) are a testimony to the life they lost, and found, together,” says Desai.
The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT), which is housed in the 150-year-old Town Hall in Amritsar, is a repository of art, artefact, documents and oral histories. Opened in October 2016, it is spread across three rooms and will eventually have seven galleries across 16,000 square feet. There will also be a gallery of hope. “That’s why this museum is there. To heal,” says Desai.
“THE MUSEUM WILL BE A SPACE OF MEMORY, RECONCILIATION AND HEALING. IT WILL ALSO MEMORIALISE THE GRIT, COURAGE AND SPIRIT OF THAT GENERATION,” SAYS DESAI