The Memorial Art Gallery is exhibiting “Sultana’s Dream,” a portfolio of 27 linotypes by Indian American artist Chitra Ganesh, through June 14 in its Lockhart Gallery.
“Sultana’s Dream” was inspired by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s early 20th-century story of the same title. The prints illustrate elements of the text, and use its imagery and themes to explore urgent topics of the political present.
Hossain’s 1905 short story begins in reverie: “One evening I was lounging in an easy chair in my bedroom and thinking lazily of the condition of Indian womanhood.” The narrator is led on a dreamlike stroll through Ladyland, a utopian matriarchy where women have harnessed the power of the sun to live prosperously and efficiently. Education and compassion for refugees are paramount and men remain indoors in domestic spaces.
Ganesh literally interprets certain moments from this pioneering work of feminist science fiction: the opening scene in the easy chair, for example, or a military battle won by wielding an inventive solar weapon. Other images describe and build upon Ladyland’s architecture and environment, further elucidating the vivid atmosphere that Hossain created.
The portfolio, according to Ganesh, “connects with problems shaping 21st-century life: apocalyptic environmental disaster, the disturbing persistence of gender-based inequality, the power of the wealthy few against the economic struggles of the majority, and ongoing geopolitical conflicts that cause widespread death and suffering.”
“Sultana’s Dream” engages these subjects through the lens of history, literature and mythology not only to examine the relationship between imagined and lived worlds, but also to consider how utopian fantasies might be realized.
This exhibit is presented as part of MAG’s “Season of Women” to celebrate and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Throughout the “Season,” which includes Women’s History Month, MAG will feature the work of female artists recently acquired for the permanent collection in four exhibition spaces to honor those who led and participated in the longest social movement in American history.