Image of a basket containing the notebooks of Rani Gaidinliu (1915-93), a Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against British rule in India, in the stores of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. The basket carries a tag with the note: ‘Basket of note-books belonging to the sorceress Gaidilin containing scribbl’d characters purporting to be writing. Her supposed literary powers gave her great prestige. Hangrum village. N. Cachar Hills. JP Mills, 1932’. Photo by Zasha Colah.

Zasha Colah researches contemporary collective forms of cultural production and artistic imagination under prolonged militarized situations; and how acts of imagination become collective. She segues between at least two terrains: the region of Northeast India bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma and China, and the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. These artificially segmented terrains coalesce in this research to perceive the intersections of law, artistic imagination, constitutions, and the infrastructure of disobedient, ungoverned terrains.


Focusing on traditional practices of storytelling, poetry and weaving as forms of insurgency, for her 2020-21 fellowship with 221A, Zasha Colah pursues research around the infrastructure of disobedient, ungoverned terrains. Both the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and the bioregion of Northeast India bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma and China, operate under the conditions of a militarized occupation of traditional territories, and are crucial fronts of systemic planetary-scale extraction. Her research takes the following starting points:

  • Recognizing and qualifying ecocide through practices of “illegality,” fugitivity and subterfuge (related to Adi Ophir’s concept of “conversion”)
  • Intersections of political environmental reform and mysticism/magical aliases
  • Contested geographies, occupied and militarized traditional territories, and autonomous zones 
  • Material culture, oral objects and orality, collective fictions

The Scorched Earthly exhibition at Ar/Ge Kunst in Bolzano, Italy

The Scorched Earthly exhibition opened at the Ar/Ge Kunst in Bolzano, Italy on April 4, 2023. Zasha Colah developed this body of research with 221A since 2021, which has developed into a series of exhibition and a forthcoming publication. Later this year, an archive of the exhibition and research will find a home in 221A’s Library, to be displayed in our new facility at 825 Pacific Street.

The Scorched Earthly considers the many forms that the scorched-earth military maneuver has taken up until the present in unceded or ungovernable terrains. The highlands of north-eastern India and Myanmar (known as Zomia) and the lands of Indigenous people, especially the unceded territories in British Columbia, bear oral folklore that describe routine scorched-earth interventions. Zasha’s research accentuates poetic voices and artistic responses from these terrains connected by their bearing of scorched-earth maneuvers.

The project include the work of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft (Working group), Chaw Ei Thein (artist, Yangon, 1969), Soloman Chiniquay (artist and filmmaker, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ territory and Treaty 7 territory), Valeen Jules (artist, poet and birthworker, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwaka’wakw nations), Desmond Kharmawphlang (poet, Shillong, 1964), Ko Latt (artist, Yangon, 1987), Arkotong Longkumer (anthropologist, Kohima, Nagaland), Saviya Lopes (artist, Vasai, 1994), Poly Marchantia (artist, Milano, 2020), Nge Lay (artist, Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay region, Myanmar, 1979), Zamthingla Ruivah (artist and songwriter, Ukhrul, Manipur, 1966), Yadanar Win (artist, Yangon, 1987), Sawangwongse Yawnghwe (artist, Shan State Burma, 1971)

Over the course of the Fellowship, Colah will work in concert with a team of collaborators from at least two geographic regions (the Pacific Northwest of North America and Indo-Burma), creating a constellation of poets, artists, activists, legal scholars, weavers, and other cultural workers who will contribute to a palimpsest of research about the intersections of law, artistic imagination, constitutions, and the infrastructure of disobedient, ungovernable terrains. Colah’s research will take the form of commissions exhibitions and a publication with partner organizations and platforms. 

Further Feature Image Details: An account of Rani Gaidinliu’s notebooks by Dr. Arkotong Longkumer, Senior Lecturer, Modern Asia, The University of Edinburgh

Live Stream – Introducing 221A’s 2021 Fellows, January 22, 2021
Zasha Colah Fellowship Closing Live Stream, May 04, 2023