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Born in Bhiria (Nawabshah District) a town in present day Sindh that sits on the Indus Valley, Mamtani now lives near Munich. Mahirwan comes from a land that has straddled the ruins of a Dravidian civilisation of the Indus at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, the Tombs of Sufis at Sehwan & Multan and the temples of Lasbela and Tharparkar. At twelve, fleeing the genocide that came with partition, Mamtani came to settle in Delhi. An autodidact, who taught himself lying sick on the bed of refugee camp in Delhi, Mamtani did odd jobs to survive like most Sindhis who found themselves uprooted in India. Between those jobs he found time to learn fine art at the Delhi Polytechnic and in 1966 escaped to Munich to study art as part of the DAAD German artistic exchange agency. Since then he has divided his time between the two countries.

Mamtani is eccentric with his love for music, classical music and experimental genre that he himself composes and animates his paintings too with language, philosophy and literature. His animations unearth the complexities of solitude and an introverted personality that reverts to an extroverted masque in his paintings. His paintings contain the desires of modern life in words, watercolour and mixed media. Using chalks he talks of the many masques we hold in front of those who view us. His Centrovision paintings are not exclusively abstract like those of other neo-tantra painters rather his are portraits. Poignant, comic and happy -staring out at you like those of Leonardo Da Vinci. Art History intersects Science and Geometry in the memory of a forever-exiled soul.

The Sindhis found themselves as refugees and later on as builders, professors, writers, smugglers, politicians, actresses, tradesmen, lawyers and artists. Building the largest diaspora after the Tamilians with whom they share a Dravidian wisdom, the Sindhis have spread across oceans from South America to West Africa and Oceania, but often returning to Bombay, their cultural capital after the Hyderabad of Pakistan – now forlorn from partition. The retrospective of Mahirwan Mamtani at the Gallery Art & Soul somewhere celebrates the transnational spirit of survival that Sindhis embodied after partition where the nation melted away to form a distinct cultural bond that sat under a mask national affiliation. In Punta Arenas, a free trade port in Chile near the South Pole, Bhojrajmal Nandawani is firstly a trader at the mouth of the Antarctic, a Chilean and then a Sindhi and somewhere among those affiliations, Indian. Those many masques are defined by the practice in constructivist and spiritual query in the works of Mahirwan Mamtani.

Sumesh Sharma

London, 2018

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