© 2019 Ruhee Maknojia

Ruskin School of Art Practice-led DPhil Portfolio

To: Ruskin School of Arts Admissions Committee

This portfolio was created to present the committee my practice as an artist. Below the committee will find two bodies of work. The first body of work is titled "The Garden" It is a project that was completed over the span of one year in May of 2019. The project was first present at the Wallach Art Gallery, New York City. The second body of work titled "Tradition as a Form" is a project that I have began and hope to complete as a practice-led DPhil candidate.  

The Garden

Indo-Iranian Gardens are structures that have historically been constructed around the symbolism of creating paradise on Earth. In Iranian literature the garden has been seen as a space that is surrounded around four walls, everything inside the four walls is paradise on Earth, and everything outside the four walls is the wretched and chaos of the world. Inspired by this literary tradition, first introduced to me in the book Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur, I began to construct my own garden of paradise. Everything inside my studio was built and created to be paradise on Earth, and everything outside of the studio was going to be the chaos. As the slow process of building a detailed installation progressed, pieces of chaos and violence organically began to infiltrate into the space. The attempt to create a two part system of paradise versus chaos failed. What was left was a space that was nuanced and disturbed. There were repeated ineffectual attempts to seek perfection, which were thwarted, through the shortcomings of a modern world. 

Tradition as a Form

Ginans are Ismaili hymns that are recited by Ismailis in their house of worship called Jamathkhanas. Ismailis view Ginans as hymns that provide religious and spiritual knowledge. These Ginans first started as an oral tradition that involved dancing and music. These poems were recited in the Gujarati language. In the 14th century they started to be recorded in the Khojki script of writing. Although Ginans were recited in Gujarati the script in which it was recorded was a transliteration. This was done as a way to avoid religious persecution. Around the 1800s the practice of dancing and playing music along side the recitation of Ginans ended. In the 1970s the recording of Ginans in the Khoki script also ended. In the 1970s Ginans were transliterated to the script of the respected countries that Ismailis lived it. This change in tradition happened as a way to minimize persecution of Ismailis by integrating them into their respected countries of origin. Ismailis who recite Ginans are primarily from South East Asia. Today Ginans are transliterated into the Roman, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, and Russian Script. The process of time, transliteration, migration, and war has altered the written text to various degrees. Yet, through this rumbustious history, the oral tradition of reciting Ginans in Ismaili Jamathkhanas remains strong. The following body of work is seeking to use Tradition as a Form to revive the practice of recording Ginans in the Khojki script with music and dance so that its sensibility can be felt by a contemporary audience that is transnational and global.