Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Blurred Lines of Art and Heart

In a conversation with Jagran Cityplus, the well-known poet, art curator and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote talks about Indian poetry, his translation work on Lal Děd and more.

There is no easy way to answer the great Indian question, ‘Where do you come from?’ especially when you belong to an ethnic micro minority. But Ranjit Hoskote the celebrated contemporary English language poet, art curator and cultural theorist busts the interrogation mark through his work that liquefies the cross cultural identities to culminate onto what sub-continent has not cast its glance at.

It was not for nothing that celebrated Kashmiri American poet Agha Shahid Ali had said of him, “Hoskote wants to discover language, as one would a new chemical in a laboratory experiment. This sense of linguistic play, usually missing from sub-continental poetry in English, is abundant in Hoskote’s work.” In a conversation with Cityplus, Hoskote talks about Indian poetry, his translation work on Lal Děd and more.

On various ‘isms’

An art curator that Hoskote is, any ‘ism’ for him begins as liberation and ends up being a cage. ‘isms’ are not movements, but moments in Art. “Once these ‘isms’ mark a major breakthrough in terms of artistic practices, the nature of aesthetic experience, and how the line between life and art is blurred, the artist moves on to a new level of resolution. His sense of practice is transformed, but if he fossilizes that into a set of rules, then he is betraying himself. It is sad if someone remains a surrealist for his whole life.” 
On this the poet adds, “Isms create definitions of what belongs to the Self and what is against the Self. They become basis for antagonism. The minute you identify with that belief you are constrained and what is outside your Self appears hostile and strange. In political terms ‘isms’ are lethal, dangerous!”

Are artists or poets loners?

Anyone who is an artist knows the mystery of the world. “A good artist may be socially or personally alienated, but he is never alienated from his art. As an artist you recognize there is no unitary Self. Self, within itself, contains many other Selfs. It is hybrid and rooted in many places experiences, various cultural impulses and confluences. You develop a way of looking at the world in a different sense infused with curiosity and empathy. You do not create art to put down what you already know,” avers the poet and art curator.

On Tagore’s centenary of winning the Nobel

“It is very difficult to understand on what basis the Nobel Prize Committee makes its choices. Reasons why they chose whom are very obscure. Often, it has to do with their sense of a writer’s dealing with major political or cultural crisis. There are a number of Indian writers who could easily claim to be worthy of winning a Nobel.  Nevertheless, back home we have prestigious Sahitya Akademi.” The question, however, still oscillates from 1913 to 2013 with the air hanging still.

On Lal Děd

It is not often that a reader savours a work of translation as a pristine and independent entity in itself quite juxtaposed to the European styles. That is how ‘I, Lalla’ came into being. It took Hoskote twenty years to translate the vākhs of the 14th century Kashmiri mystic Lal Děd, Lalleshwari, Lalla and Lal Arifa as she is called. Hoskote gets nostalgic, “This mystic figure is very significant to me, deeply personal. It was a desire to connect with my original roots. Translating it was a challenge for me. I am a diasporic Kashmiri. It took over my soul. Every poem is annotative as there is Sufi, Tantric and Saivite usage. Hers was a poetry that cut across all divisions carrying heritage of Kashmir.”

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