All of the Above, None of the Above

With: Abhishek Hazra, Ane Hjort Guttu, Akanksha Sharma, Ayatgali Tuleubek, Forager Collective (Babitha Lingraju, Deepa Bhasthi and Sunoj D), Farah Mulla, Fatou Madeleine Åsbakk, Gitanjali Dang, Henrik Pryser Libell, Himali Singh Soin, Hina Khan, Inger Lise Hansen, Kush Badhwar, Liv Bugge, Marie Kaada Hovden, MS Sathyu, Ragnhild M Hansen, Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Ruth Wilhelmine Meyer, Susanne Winterling, Shubhangi Singh, Ronak Moshtaghi, SnotBot (Ocean Alliance), Toril Johannessen, Yendini Yoo Cappelen                                                                                                                                                                                                              With the With: Agha Shahid Ali, Edward Said, Nansen Passport, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Stand with Standing Rock

Address: Melahuset, Mariboes gate 8, 0183 Oslo, Norway
Opening: Tuesday, October 10, 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm. 7.30 pm: Introduction to the exhibition by the curator
Dates: October 11-November 4, 2017, Tuesday to Sunday (Exhibition will be closed on: October 21, 22 and 28)
Hours: 11.00 am–6.00 pm

Harcharan Chawla arrived in Oslo in 1975 and Purnima Chawla the following year. The couple were part of the first wave of ‘pioneer Indian settlers’ who made Norway home. This decisive arrival came after a long-drawn series of arrivals and departures—including their arrival from Mianwali, Pakistan to Delhi, India, in 1947 as Partition refugees.

The Chawlas already had experience behind them. P Chawla had held teaching and administrative positions in schools across Delhi. And. H Chawla had already published while still at the Indian Railways, where for two decades he held the post of stationmaster.

In Oslo, however, the couple started from scratch. Lived in student accommodations, learnt Norwegian, worked odd jobs. Did the whole routine before eventually finding their feet in the local literary scene.

H Chawla’s feet took him to Deichmanske bibliotek (Oslo Public Library), where he became consultant for Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi literature circa 1978. He also continued to write and his move to Norway brought new dimension to his writing, addressing issues of loss of culture and identity faced by South Asians migrating to different parts of the world (Wikipedia).

PC continued her pedagogical work in Oslo/Norway, where she taught at the Veitvet School.

The couple immersed themselves in the context. They undertook a range of activities where they employed language— English, Hindi, Norwegian, Punjabi and Urdu—in their capacity as interlocutor, translator, writer, pedagogue and curator. Their multilinguality expanded their world and translation became critical to their immersive mode.

One such translation gig involved Knut Hamsun’s Victoria, 1898. P Chawla was translating Victoria into Hindi when she died in 1993. H Chawla completed what was left of the translation and then went on to translate the book to Urdu.

Hamsun was a national idol in Norway when he became a Nazi sympathiser during the Second World War. His wartime conduct earned the Nobel prize-winning author the ire of his country. He was reviled as a traitor but died unrepentant in 1952, aged 92.

The ire is, for the most parts, always in response to Hamsun’s Nazi affiliation, which manifested in full later in life. Hamsun had, however, shown a predilection for racist and orientalist attitudes as far back as late 1800s.

Two instances of the same would be Pan (1894) and Growth of the Soil (1920). In the epilogue of Pan (1894), a defining early work in the author’s literary legacy, the action mysteriously shifts from Nordland to India, where the action is marked by racism.

And in Growth of the Soil—the book that sealed the Nobel deal—Hamsun erases the Sami from a place that, although fictionalised in the novel, bears every trace of the landscape of Nordland, where the Sami presence dates back at least a couple of millennia.

We begin our inquiry into the intrigue with two questions:

What prompted Hamsun to situate the epilogue of Pan in India?

What prompted the Chawlas to translate Hamsun’s Victoria?


These questions in turn led us to other questions, such as:

The place of fiction and translation and what it can tell us about the lives of those committed to it?

What does it mean to arrive in a city?

What does it mean to arrive at this particular exhibition in this particular context of Oslo?

Is that the ‘ghost’ of Hamsun’s father sipping coffee at the table by the window?

Can language be home?

These questions in turn led us to concepts such as: Deep reading, epigenetic trauma, Norwegianisation, linguistic relativism, flirting, confirmation bias, intimacy, the Bechdel Test

And places such as: Hamarøy, Mumbai, the farthest reaches of the imagination, North Sea, the cerebellum, Kashmir, Deichmanske bibliotek, Tehran, the many shades of nationalism, Namibia, Spitsbergen

And philosophies: Like the Sami philosophy of place and placemaking

And peoples like: The hyperlexics i.e. children with a precocious ability to read, Henrik Ibsen, Nirad C Chaudhuri, Ambadas Khobragade, Annemarie Schwarzenbach, clairvoyants, Marie Hamsun, Anders Behring Breivik…

And labour: E.g. Labour of love. Loving labour

And traditions: Of Phulkari, of questioning and doubting, and of sky writing i.e. writing in the sky with your finger…

And whales, because whales need no introduction and are a category unto themselves. And so on.

– Gitanjali Dang

This project has been supported by Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) through Gitanjali Dang/Khanabadosh’s residency within the International Studio Programme + (ISP+). For additional details visit: https://oca.no/visitors-programme/isp-plus/august-november-2017.1

In collaboration with Melahuset & Podium