Afreen Firdaus Idrees: Rollie Mukerjee remembers how her earliest tryst with Kashmiris was when the travelling shawl-wallahs who had journeyed from the Valley to the sleepy town of Jabalpur had a way of turning up at her doorstep with massive cloth bundles lugged on their shoulders to sell an assortment of pherans, kaleens, and embroidered shawls to her mother and be warmly invited for a cup of tea and talk by her father. The snatches of memory of those exchanges that she carried with her, the poignant grief cached in them when they relayed stories of torture and suppression, would reappear in flashes, once she began her own foray into reading – poetry, anecdotes, articles, books – about this lost ‘paradise’ that is Kashmir.
[…] At the heart of Rollie’s compositions on the survival of history and identity is a traditionally female activity like embroidery. These embroideries are a resolve to go on living, documenting their existence however fragile and endangered it may be. “I have treated the cloth as human body…the wounded body which is the site of pain and is a storehouse of memory – a sedimentation of agony, the site of healing, of hope, despair, love, and loss.” She seeks to embed their memories and temporalities in the materiality of the Kashmiri body, in the Kashmiri women’s bodies that have registered the violent legacies of the Occupation. Unspoken, repressed histories of trauma record itself on the body, not unlike a thick-trunked tree, waiting to be remembered and called out. As long as past traumas and resistances to those traumas live on in the oppressed, occupied body, it can be passed on, as heritage. The body is the repertoire that preserves everything in its flesh; it carries history, and begins to be a site of memory. Recounting, recovering maimed, murdered, and disappeared bodies, manifesting the suffering of the mothers of martyrs, of half-widows, and that of half-mothers as bodily present, and using this gendered, embodied archive to retell an alternative Kashmiri history of the land is a political act. More here.