A search for meaning in the face of something so brutal it appears absurd. An absurd gesture when meaning itself becomes too much to bear.
The sharing of a cup of nun chai, of salted tea, is a common everyday practice in Kashmir. Alana Hunt, artist and writer, used this simple gesture to start a set of conversations, in Australia, in India and finally, in Kashmir. Each cup marks the one hundred and eighteen civilians who were killed in the protests that roiled the Kashmir valley during the summer of 2010. Each cup of tea was photographed, and the conversation around it written up from memory.
In these exchanges the political unfolds through a profoundly personal experience, and events, places and sentiments that are often obscured from view are given breathing space. People, homes, memory—and flavour—combine to make tangible what so many outside Kashmir do not know.
This is an archive of small moments, marking each loss and moving against the normalisation of political violence and death. Spanning the spheres of contemporary art, literature, social-science and journalism, Cups of nun chai is a poignant act of memorialisation—a means of remembering, reading and reminding.
Adroit, and shot through with an extraordinary, even stubborn, compassion, it reflects on Kashmir, but also on nation-making and colonisation, and on power and violence. The histories, political forces and grief behind this work emerge gradually, but with great sensitivity. And eventually with an unexpected degree of ferocity.
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