Jameel Library Commissions: Sarnath Banerjee

Jameel Library features an illustrated novel by Sarnath Banerjee titled ‘17-year Cicada’, with ten chapter entries released every fortnight starting 18 January 2021 on Jameel Arts Centre’s website, which you can visit through the link here.

17-year Cicada is an episodic account of a young woman trapped in a vast library. She goes through the stages of denial, anger and acceptance. Surrendering to her fate she roams around the desolate reading rooms, walks between the shelves, takes selfies and eats from the well-stocked refrigerator. Sometimes she has imaginary conversations. The place feels like the furthest outpost of the Gobi desert.

But is she really alone?

Conceived as an ode to reading, this commission looks to create new pathways to texts, expanding on the idea of a bibliography.

Drawing practice is one area of focus for the Jameel Library – in particular, how drawing informs our understanding of literature and can make legible (and disseminate) theory while providing access across multiple disciplines. The library looks to further unpack the potential and understanding of drawing practice through the lens of ‘drawing as research’, kneading this philosophy into our collection, programming, commissions and Library Circles.

Sarnath Banerjee

Through his five books of graphic fiction published by Penguin and Harper Collins, Sarnath Banerjee explores the nature of the South Asian middle-class, delving into themes such as power, masculinity, bureaucracy, rumour, class-system, meritocracy, religion and the uncanny.

Collaborating with historians, Banerjee produced “Liquid History of Vasco Da Gama” for the Kochi Biennial, 2014, and “The Poona Circle”, a series of vandalised history textbooks, for the Pune Biennle, 2017. The same year, for Frans-Hals museum, Harlem, he produced “I Got Ginger”, ‘insubordinate’ children’s book on Dutch colonialism.  His billboard series, “Gallery of Losers”, commissioned for the 2012 London Olympics, was widely displayed in East London.

His solo exhibition, “History is Written by Garment Manufacturers” was at the CCA, Glasgow in 2012. He has been a fellow of Akademie Schloss Solitude, Indian Foundation for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation.

Banerjee co-founded the publishing house Phantomville, which publishes graphic nonfiction by bringing together reporters and comic-book artists.

In 2019, Sarnath received the Belknap visiting fellowship from the history department of Princeton University and CAST award by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He currently writes Phantomgarh, a fortnightly column with the Indian news Paper Mint Lounge.



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