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Sajad Hamdani

First at Khoj
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Sajad Hamdani is an artist born and brought up in Srinagar, Kashmir. He takes his inspiration from the gigantic maple trees and freshwater lakes that were the play grounds of his childhood. The violence that these childhood playgrounds have been rife with also appears in his works. Sajad’s artistic journey began when he quit school in 1987 at the age of 16. After that, Sajad took up many odd jobs, among which were stints as an apprentice with a carpenter and a commercial artist. A few years later, in 1989 life changed drastically for Sajad as it did for all Kashmiris due to political turmoil in the Valley. He suddenly found himself indoors all the time, and his creative exploration began from there. He was already painting oils when his friends introduced to him the idea of joining the Institute of Music and Fine Arts, Srinagar. Due to the political situation in Kashmir, it took him seven years to complete the BFA in Sculpture.


A self taught painter, Sajad had created a large body of work even before he joined the BFA course. He often supported his studies by selling his paintings. Sajad still paints and often prefers to sell paintings rather than his sculpture. As a BFA student, Sajad began to understand the political underpinnings of the functioning of the Institute as well as the work that was produced there, or not produced there. With this political consciousness, Sajad founded Contemporary Arts Foundation, an artists’ commune in 1994. Throughout the seven years of its existence the group served as a platform for young Kashmiri artists to exhibit and explore different aspects of contemporary arts.


On graduating, Sajad worked as an art teacher for six months in Delhi Public School, Jammu and then went on to pursue an MFA at Visva-Bharati University, becoming the first student from Kashmir to apply to Sculpture Department at Kala Bhavan. During the two years in Shantiniketan, Sajad worked with many ideas which were in close proximity with nature, with the landscape. Sajad’s use of materials underwent a transformation. Observing people’s way of life became a part of his creative process, which led to intriguing ways of seeing commonly used materials by local people. For example his installation ‘Mandala’ was created from the small polythene bags usually used for sweet takeaways. The ‘Gateway of Life’ used straw and bamboo, materials which are a part and parcel of everyday life at Santiniketan. Often his assemblages and sculptures were constructed out of found objects or to be precise the throw away. The creative process had become a way of seeing and constructing rather than sculpting wood, stone or bronze with the given concepts.


After completing his Masters he could not return to Kashmir with its hostile situation. He stayed on at Santiniketan for more six months but couldn’t continue working further due to financial reasons. An offer of a job in an alternative school in Bangkok, Thailand, where he taught arts for one and a half year took him on a different path. After teaching in Bangkok he finally returned to the Valley where he taught for one year as an instructor at the Institute of Music and Fine Arts and then was transferred to work as media advisor at the Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages.