5 MARCH - 10 APRIL 2021
London (Wandsworth Town)
Bare-chested women stare solemnly outwards at the viewer, their poses at times proud and at others self-conscious, each muscle rendered in precise, beautiful detail. In his upcoming solo exhibition,Nangeli, at Kristin Hjellegjerde’s Wandsworth gallery in London, Pakistani artist Muhammad Zeeshan draws on the 19th-century legend of a woman called Nangeli who supposedly cut off her breasts in protest against a caste-based ‘breast tax’.Traditionally, the baring of breasts in the Keralan state of India was seen as a mark of respect to higher-status people and significantly, the tax, which was evaluated on the size of a woman’s breasts, was only imposed on the lower caste Hindu women who wanted to cover their bodies. While this story is , in many ways, culturally specific it also speaks of a wider history of degradation and the continued censorship and objectification of the female body. In this way, Zeeshan’s portraits possess a unique timeless quality, melding source imagery from 19th-century postcards with contemporary photography of the female nude.