SRINAGAR: This winter, for a period of more than a month, Cups of nun chai (salt tea), a series of articles by foreign artist Alana Hunt published in Kashmir Reader during the tumultuous times of the 2016 uprising, will decorate the walls of Tufts University, one of the premier higher education destinations in the United States (US).
About 86 articles, along with the front page of the same issue of Kashmir Reader, have been pasted on the varsity’s art gallery for public view. Cups of nun chai, Hunt said, is an eight-year participatory memorial that emerged from the summer of 2010 in Kashmir when 118 civilians died in pro-freedom protests. The articles, she told Kashmir Reader, are a repository of Kashmir’s memory of turbulent times, now presented to outsiders.
Hunt invited people to share a cup of nun chai with her, her guests 118 different persons from across Australia, Bangkok, Europe, India, and Kashmir. She later wrote about the conversations that she held with these guests, who belonged to various age groups and walks of life. Former Kashmir Reader Editor Hilal Mir, senior journalist Parvaiz Bukhari, and short story fiction writer Arif Ayaz Parrey have been instrumental in taking her work in present form, she said.
“I was in Kashmir during 2010. I left the day Tufail Mattoo was killed. Back home in Australia, nobody knew what was happening in Kashmir, and the death toll was rising day by day. There was incredible journalism emerging from Kashmir, but it was not having any reach in Australia,” Hunt said over the phone from Boston where she is scheduled to participate in the exhibition and hold a conversation about the Cups of nun chai memorial.
“In a creative way, I decided to hold a conversation in memory of this loss of life in Kashmir with other People, most of whom were from Australia, along with others, particularly from India and also Kashmir. These writings and photographs were later published by Kashmir Reader. This newspaper serial was for me a way of exhibiting the work and sharing it with audiences in Kashmir,” she added.
Hunt is an Australia-based creative artist who uses modern media like photos and videos to express herself. Earlier she has displayed her art in Indonesia, Perth, and Sydney. In 2017, Cups of Nun Chai won the incinerator award for art and social change in Melbourne.
Hunt had told a New Delhi-based news portal that through each cup of Nun chain shared experiences were expressed by all the people she held conversations with, connecting Kashmir’s own histories with those of other places around the world.
“A Somali migrant who shared her own experiences of migration, nation-making, and terrorism… Thailand’s political movements and comparisons with Ireland… East Timor and Palestine… these were at the fore, but underlying all these larger political stories were small personal experiences of individuals,” she said.
Hunt’s first work on Kashmir was a participatory media project that humorously highlighted the state government’s ban on all prepaid mobile phone services through a series of ‘Paper Txt MSGS’. At that time, phone texts were the primary form of speedy communication between mobile phones.
She invited people to write on paper what they desired to say on phone. These were later collated into a video, installation, and a publication. In May 2011 it was released as an e-book and later published in print.