Shaman “Untouchable unseen”

Manish Harijan (1985 - )

C-print on aluminum

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This photograph by Manish Harijan is part of a series addressing the issue of statelessness and the importance of human rights, commissioned by Empathy & Risk for the Cancelled Arts Program at the World Conference of Statelessness, held at the Museum of Communication, The Hague. It was presented there in 2019 alongside a performance by the artist and longlisted for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2021.

    Posing outdoors in the Peak district, the artist wears a bowl as a mask where the fearful image of the Hindu goddess Kali is reflected with her tongue sticking out. Throughout history, those in power have used religion and their status to dehumanise and rob the marginalised of their basic human rights, sanctioning poverty and desperation. Harijan uses symbolic details as metaphors to illustrate the societal and superstitious beliefs deeply rooted in South Asia that have allowed religious supremacy, caste, gender and other forms of discrimination to render large populations stateless. The broom in the picture is a symbol for sweeping everything away. The gloomy and overcast landscape signifies that the status quo cannot be maintained, because change is coming, change is always coming.

    Harijan was born in Nepal, the son of a shoemaker from the Dalit or ‘untouchable’ caste. Today he lives in Sheffield. Through art, he questions the injustices inflicted upon minorities and the lived experiences of vulnerable populations. His work traverses the east and the west, casting iconic images from religion to pop culture, primarily in painting.

  • About the artist
    Born in Nepal, Manish Harijan studied Fine Art at Kathmandu University (BA, 2011), followed by a residency at Kathmandu Contemporary Art Center in 2012 and at the Centre for Culture and Development (CKU) in Denmark, in 2013. His first solo exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery in Kathmandu, in 2012, presented paintings that recast Hindu deities as superheroes. The exhibition was shut down on religious grounds, and the artist received death threats, court cases were filed and UNESCO issued a press release to support the artist’s freedom of expression. This led Harijan to leave Nepal for the UK to further his studies at Sheffield Hallam University (MFA, 2018–19), where he won the Dianne Willcocks Lifelong Learning award. His work has been included in group exhibitions at CKU, Copenhagen (2013); ROSL Gallery, London (2013); India Art Fair, New Delhi (2016); Weltmuseum, Vienna (2019); and Museum of Communication, The Hague (2019).
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  • Details
    Shaman “Untouchable unseen”
    C-print on aluminum
    height: 98.2 cm; width: 144.4 cm; depth: 5.0 cm
    Purchased from the artist March 2021, through the Art XUK project 2020-21
    The artist; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 18 March 2021
    GAC number