Envisioning Kashmir’s Future Through Paint and Verse

Featured image: Masood Hussain, “Hazratbal Bazaar” (2018), Canson paper 330 g/sm, 20 x 30 inches (image courtesy Private collection)

In 2019, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, Irish writer and poet Gabriel Rosenstock and Kashmiri artist Masood Hussain collaborated on a book titled Walk with Gandhi: Bóthar na Saoirse. It featured Rosenstock’s bilingual Irish and English haikus and English prose on Gandhi’s life, illustrated by Hussain’s watercolor paintings. The two artists bridged their geographical gap again to virtually collaborate on a second book, Boatman! Take these songs from me in 2023. This time the subject was grief, which found its way into Masood’s painted reliefs embodying human suffering and the visceral struggle against colonial oppression in his homeland of Kashmir. Rosenstock responded to Hussain’s artwork with his ekphrastic tanka poems on sacrifice, longing, and freedom.

Their third and latest collaboration, Love Letter to Kashmir (2024), acts like a balm for the wounds of a strife-torn and occupied Kashmir. In it, Hussain turns to the soothing potential of his watercolor paintings, which offer a glimpse into what was once eulogized as “paradise on earth” by, many scholars believe, the Persian poet Amir Khusrau.

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