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Divided Memories

Divided Memories

In Reena Saini Kallat’s world, riven with borders, barbed wires and traumas, hybrid flora and fauna offer a glimpse of shared existence, states K. Sridhar.

Reena Saini Kallat. Blind Spots

Reena Saini Kallat. (In the front) Blind Spots (Detail). Monitors, sculptural sound devices with audio. Six-channel video installation. 2017-19. (In the background) Leaking Lines. Charcoal, gouache, graphite, nails and electric wires on laser cut and embossed Arches paper. 25” x 33” (top) each. 55” x 33” (bottom) each. 2019. Images courtesy of the artist and Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai. Photographs by Anil Rane.

In a paper titled “Fearful memories haunt mouse descendants” published in Nature, Ewen Callaway discusses how experiences of trauma can carry across generations genetically. While this is not being talked yet as an incontrovertible truth, there have been several experiments which have studied the idea of epigenetic inheritance and have found evidence favouring it. While the study with mice seems to be yielding more solid results in favour of this idea, it is difficult to ascertain this with humans. But it is nevertheless significant that preliminary studies with grandchildren of Holocaust survivors have indicated that there may have been a genetic transmission of the traumatic experiences that the survivors went through. There are, of course, social and personal/familial modes in which these experiences are shared but the force with which experiences of the Holocaust or the Partition expresses itself two or three generations later in the affected communities lends credence to the idea of an epigenetic basis.