More than three decades ago, in February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years, marking the end of apartheid in South Africa. Eighteen of those years were spent on Robben Island in a 2x2m cell—when you stretch your arms to the sides, they brush the walls, and it’s hard not to wonder how he held on to his vision of freedom for his country in that rectangular box. Mandela’s is a story that has inspired books, biopics, and now, an immersive installation at the ongoing India Art Fair. Jitish Kallat, whose work Antumbra is part of the fair, tells Lounge how he has used Mandela’s prison calendars to contemplate the idea of time, freedom and life. His inspiration came from the personal artefacts reproduced in Mandela’s 2010 memoir Conversations With Myself.
Personal histories form the backbone of this issue. While Mandela’s life was an extraordinary study in resilience and forgiveness lived on a global stage, the lives of people around us can sometimes be just as inspiring, though narrower in scope. Personal histories are a reflection on a life lived in relative obscurity and written for a circle of family, friends and acquaintances, and the trend of publishing them for a wider audience is catching on in India, as our cover story notes. The personal history slots into the space between the autobiography and the memoir, yet the issues and concerns it raises can range from the quotidian, like managing stress as an entrepreneur, to a sociopolitical statement, such as a record of daily discrimination faced by a person whom society has marginalised.
Apart from books, personal histories can take the form of film, archives, an Instagram page, or a long-running photo project on community and justice, as another story explains. Other stories that build on the theme of personal storytelling include a review of a new biography of Impressionist painter Claude Monet, A Restless Life, and a column about the life and work of poet, writer and publisher Sharmistha Mohanty, whose writing straddles genres. Then we have a light-hearted piece on our obsession with Reels on the daily lives of people like ourselves.
As always, we have recommendations for things to watch, read, listen and do this weekend—and if you’re in Bengaluru, you might be tempted to grab a drink at one of the city’s elegant and intimate new bars, about which we also write in this issue.
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