May 28, 2016

The Aesthetics of Mystery: Chandan Shafiqui Kabir in Milan, Italy

Chandan Shafiqui Kabir, Organic form

"It's a liver, right?" I asked the Milan based artist Chandan Shafiqui Kabir. I had guessed correctly. Good instincts because I don't really know much about how organs look like (except for the heart of course <3) But I know about the liver through my meridian gym exercises - it's a tricky one where anger is stored and you can probably sense in my blog that I'm suppressing, always trying to be nice :-)  Did the artist intend his sculpture to be interpreted symbolically? I didn't ask. I was more interested in its looks. Chandan's sculptures had caught my eye when I saw them first on slides during a workshop in Piemonte, Italy, about decolonial thinking in the arts. Aren't these sculptures beauties? They even have a very nice feel to it, a bit rough on the finger tips. "Tough cookies," so I thought with my stomach (only Josef Beuys thinks with his knee). 

Chandan Shafiqui Kabir, Waiting for Vicinity 
 Chandan Shafiqui Kabir, Mythical pitcher 1

Back home in Berlin, I showed pictures of the sculptures to my friends. Philosopher Kovo N'Sondé told me he favoured the sculptures in which one could put something inside, or so it seems at least, that the sculpture is a beholder, containing a secret of some sort. Kovo N'Sonde knows about the aesthetics of mystery. He has been studying knots in Congolese art, and that's exactly what also Chandan has been doing, but then the Bangladesh way: knotting. As N'Sondé writes: "Dans l'esthétique occidentale, la verité est souvent synonyme de dévoilement [...]. Dans l'esthétique koongo, il convient plutôt de concevoir qu'il y a dénouement." (In the Western aesthetics, truth is often synonymous with unveiling. In the Congolese aesthetics one talks rather about denouement (unknotting)). 

Chandan Shafiqui Kabir, Mythical pitcher 2

I like this idea of denouement rather than unveiling in the practise of art. Unveiling has something brutal to it, a laying bare with a brusque movement of the hand. The unknotting has a patient element to it, a slow creation of a tension, like in those good old detective movies when Hercule Poirot unfolds the strands of a plot surrounded by all the possible suspects. And although in the end you know who did it (always the least expected one), you're left a little confused about the how. Let me finish with a beautiful Congolese expression that Kovo quoted: "La parole qui sort de la bouche est une corde qui se lie d'elle-même." (The word that exits the mouth is a rope that knots itself.)*

Chandan Shafiqui Kabir, Mythical pitcher 3

* Steve-Régis Kovo N'Sondé, "De l'évolution de la représentation des figures de l'authorité politique et religieuse chez les populations koongo à Kongo, Loango, Ngoyo and Kikongo (XVII-XX siècles)",  Musée du Quai Branly, September 2014.


  1. thank you an. a big hug from milano.

  2. Thank U to connect from Berlin, the art of a Bangladesh artist you've seen in Milan, with ideas born from my afropean mind about koongo aesthetic! (Kovo)

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