The Escape of Anarkali, 2019 – 2020
Site-specific sculptural intervention, new commission
‘On my research trip to Lahore, I learned about the story of Anarkali. According to legend, Anarkali had an affair with the crown prince against the wishes of Mughal Emperor Akbar, who ordered her be buried alive between walls. Today the Tomb of Anarkali, which was built over the site of her immurement by the prince turned emperor in her honor, is used as the Punjab Archives. An empty sarcophagus sits there today, and while her body is not present, her story in effect guards the country’s historic records. Some speculate that this possibly fictitious story was told by colonialists to demonstrate that they were significantly less ruthless than their Mughal predecessors.
I am interested in stories about or by women. Particularly when those stories reveal so much about the usually male – or in this case possibly colonialist- authors and the surrounding cultural context. Curiously, I have been making work for several years about “Gradiva”— another ficitional female character that is partially buried in a wall in thhe form of a relief sculpture, but in her case she is born from the wall, unlike Anarkali who dies within one. I am deeply interested in sites that draw forward the legends or memories of a long dead person whose remains are not present, such that the building or tomb itself becomes a stand-in for a body. This merging of figure and architecture has been a foundational premise for many of my works, such that sometimes a building displaced reads a figure displaced.’ Diana Al-Hadid
Co-Commissioned by: Ndure SSC Brand, FAST Cable, Agha Steel, Rafae bin Khalid & the Lahore Biennale Foundation
Text provided by the artist
Artist Assistant: Ali Baba