Known to question existing social norms through his work, on September 21, Kerala-born Berlin-based artist Sajan Mani shared a post on his Instagram account where in an injured state he alleges being victim of a “racist attack” in Germany at a public space.
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In the video, he says, he was attacked after he left his studio and was waiting with another artist, when he was hit by a man with a stick multiple times and fell on the road. Recorded in an ambulance on his way to a hospital, he complains of dizziness and pain in the back of his head and hands, adding that “this is the everyday reality of a migrant artist in Germany” and he hopes “this country will change one day”. “Luckily some people came to help me, and they called the police,” he adds.
Awarded the Berlin Art Prize in 2021 and the 2022 Prince Claus Mentorship Award, Mani’s works often use his own “Black Dalit body” as a socio-political metaphor. “I am interested in the body and the concepts of time and space — the body and its limits, endurance and a black Dalit body’s existence. I’m trying to create new languages to address the idea of possible collective futures. My body is a site for the powerless, the untouchable. My performances attempt to evoke pain, shame, power and fear… I am looking for erased histories and non-archived histories of the Dalit and non-indigenous bodies,” he stated in an interview to The Indian Express in February 2023.
Born in 1981 into a family of rubber tappers in Kerala, Mani also worked for two years as a migrant labourer in the Gulf, before practising as a visual design artist in Bengaluru. He was also associated with the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012 as a member of the Malayalam editorial team. Much of his work is based on long duration investigations. If his two-hour performance “Secular Meat” at Sunaparanta — Goa Centre for the Arts in 2016 had him on the floor with 200 eggs, five grilled chicken and the tricolour of the Indian flag, with the chicken as the symbol of “secular” meat, in his 2020 solo at Nome Gallery, Berlin, “Alphabet of Touch >< Overstretched Bodies and Muted Howls for Songs” he turned to protest songs of Dalit activist and poet Poykayil Appachan — drawing lines from it several times over across the walls around a red monolithic structure.