INFO Unltd with Hajra Waheed on ‘Hum’ and Abolitionist Modes of Listening
3 December 2020
This episode of INFO Unltd takes a deep dive into a recent sound work by artist Hajra Waheed entitled, Hum. Exploring histories of sonic resistance across South and West Asia and North Africa over the last half-century, Hum reveals moments when sound and voice have united oppressed peoples and movements across geographies and generations.
Hum (2020) is a large scale multi-channel musical composition and sound installation that employs the ubiquitous yet overlooked medium of humming as a means to explore radical forms of collective and sonic agency. The work’s title, which translates to “We” in Urdu, reflects on international solidarity movements that emerged in the second half of the 20th century during processes of decolonization in the Global South. Driven by the need to critically engage these histories and reflect on their implications for our time, the composition features eight hummed songs of resistance from South, Central, West Asia and Africa. Shared across each of these hummed verses are stories of struggle against state oppression, the rise of authoritarianism and the plight and hope of working people, the marginalized and dispossessed. All of these songs are being resurrected in social movements today.
Hum was initially created upon invitation for Lahore Biennial 02 and shown within Lahore Fort’s historic Diwaan-i-Aam. Built by Shah Jahan in 1628 and styled after Isfahan’s Chehel Sotoun, a forty-pillar audience hall, Diwaan-i-Aam was initially conceived as a space for the public to air their grievances. Humming as a medium, meditation, phenomena and language of resistance, cuts across a crisis of hardened differences, challenging border constructions and for a moment, transforming divisions around ethnic, religious, linguistic and national affiliations into a larger call for solidarity.
The exhibition at Portikus was accompanied by a booklet featuring a conversation between the artist Hajra Waheed and the architect David Adjaye.
Artistic Director: Hajra Waheed
Technical Director of Music: Pietro Amato
Musical Arrangement: Sam Shalabi & Laurel Sprengelmeyer
Sound Engineer: Michael Feuerstack
Mixing Engineers: Pietro Amato, Michael Feuerstack
Original Recordings by: Nûdem Durak, Habib Jalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz (as sung by Iqbal Bano), Ahmed Fouad Negm (as
sung by: Sheikh Imam Eissa), Muhammad al-Makki Ibraheem (as sung by: Mohammed Wardi), Dr. Bashir Ahmad (as sung by: Hamid Hussain)
Hum (2020) was made possible with the generous support of the Lahore Biennial Foundation (Pakistan) and Portikus (Germany). The exhibition HUM at Portikus is part of the culture program related to Canada’s Guest of Honour presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2020. We acknowledge the support of the Embassy of Canada.
Hajra Waheed (b. 1980, Canada) lives and works in Montréal. Her multidisciplinary practice ranges from painting and drawing to video, sound, sculpture and installation. Amongst other issues, she explores the nexus between security, surveillance and the covert networks of power that structure lives, while also addressing the traumas and alienation of displaced subjects affected by legacies of colonial and state violence.
Waheed has participated in exhibitions worldwide including: Globale Resistance, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2020); Lahore Biennial 02, Pakistan (2020); Pushing Paper: Contemporary Drawing from 1970 to Now, British Museum, London (2019); Hold Everything Dear, The Power Plant, Toronto (2019); 57th Venice Biennale, VIVA ARTE VIVA, Venice (2017); 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2016); The Cyphers, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2016); Still Against the Sky,KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015); La Biennale de Montréal, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Quebec (2014); Lines of Control, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY (2012) and (In) The First Circle, Antoni Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, ES (2012). Waheed’s works can be found in permanent collections including MOMA, New York; British Museum, London; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago; Burger Collection, Zurich/Hong Kong and Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi.
Collected songs of Hum and more, youtube playlist:
Angela Davis’ Support for Nudem Durak (Recorded May 2020)
Habib Jalib, Dastoor
Shashi Bhushan Pandey, blind student protester, singing Dastoor in anti-CAA/student protests
Pakistan Student Solidarity Marches of 2019
1984 – Pakistan’s Student union ban
Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Hum Dekhenge
Hum Dekhenge by Iqbal Bano live at Lahore Stadium, 1986
on Iqbal Bano’s performance of Hum Dekhenge
Ahmed Fouad Negm
Imam Mohammad Ahmad Eissa (aka Sheikh Imam)
Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AASPORG)
Mohammed Wardi , Hand Over the Keys to the Country (Originally written by poet Muhammad al-Makki Ibraheem)
Diwan-i-Khas (Lahore Fort)