In 1914, Franz Kafka wrote a story,' In the Penal Colony' . A black legend that has
as a central theme a mechanical instrument designed to kill a man after a terrible 12 hour-long torture.
1921, a devilish massacre in Kerala under the British rule. This project attempts to understand this historic tragedy against the background of Kafka's story. There are no obvious similarities between Kafka's story and the massacre in Kerala. Yet, there emerge similarities in the tactics one adopts to annihilate another.
This project, titled Penal Colony, is a series of charcoal drawings based on the hellish massacre known as the 'Wagon Tragedy' that happened during British imperialist rule in India.
The night of November 19, 1921. The British army hunted down a 100 people from villages of north Kerala (Malabar) and used a railway wagon to send them to jail.
The wagon LV1711 was attached at the end of train number 17. The wagon did not have room for a 100 people to even stand. They stuffed these 100 prisoners in the wagon and locked it from the outside. There wasn't even a small hole to let some air into the wagon.
56 of the 100 people in the wagon that departed at Malabar's Thirur station died of suffocation by the time it reached its destination of Pothannur station. Subsequently 14 people died in the hospital. In all 70 people were exterminated in this cruel massacre.
Like other side of the 'Wagon Tragedy' one of Tipu Sultan's mechanical toys also appears in this project.
Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Mysore State, was dead against the British rule. This toy is a picturization of his personal emblem, the tiger, tearing up a lifesized European. Here, death is portrayed as a slow and amusing process. It is interesting that inside this toy is a musical instrument, a piped organ.
Colonization means slow, entertaining death.
The Penal Colony (ongoing project comprising drawings, sculptural installations and video
Selection of 35 drawings shown at the Venice Biennale: 'All the World's Futures', 2015, Curated by Okwui Enwezor.