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Rummana Hussain

Rummana Hussain was an artist and one of the pioneers of conceptual art, installation and politically engaged art in India. Hussain was born in Bangalore, India to a prominent Muslim family. She was the sister of Wajahat Habibullah and the wife of Ishaat Hussain. For much of her career, Hussain worked in oil and watercolour.

She created largely allegorical figurative paintings. Her art however underwent a massive change after the events that were paved in the year 1992 in Ayodhya, India, which surrounded a conflict between Hindu and the Muslim communities, which had led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid. In response to the communal violence of the events, as well as to her sudden exposure to ideological assault as a Muslim, Hussain’s art not only became more explicitly political as well as personal but it moved away from traditional media towards installation, video, photography and mixed-media work.

Throughout the 1990s, Hussain participated in exhibitions and events, which were organised by SAHMAT, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, alongside other politically conscious artists and performers. She was invited to be an artist-in-residence at Art General in New York City, in 1998 just a year before she died at age after a battle with cancer. Hussain’s work has been on view in exhibitions and art fairs worldwide including in Tate Modern, in London, in the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai, Smart Museum in Chicago, the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial, in Brisbane, Australia and at Talwar Gallery which represents the estate of the artist.

Her work has also been included in the permanent collection of the Queensland Art Gallery, in Queensland, Australia. Hussain is cited as one of the foremost leaders in the development of conceptual art in India and is credited with bringing the possibilities and merits of diverse media to critical and popular attention. Despite her association with conceptual art, however, Hussain’s work remains grounded in the physical using, rather than ignoring the “sensuousness” of the various materials that make up her installations.

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