Zasha Colah: The Scorched-Earthly

Zasha Colah: The Scorched-Earthly


November 2020 - May 2023

Focusing on practices of storytelling, poetry and weaving as forms of insurgency, Zasha Colah's fellowship investigates the infrastructures of disobedient, ungovernable terrains—terrains connected by acts of imaginative resistance under scorched-earth military policies.

The Scorched Earthly considers the use of the scorched-earth policy—and the many forms this military manoeuvre has taken up until the present—in terrains largely describable as either unceded or ungovernable. The highlands of North-Eastern India and Myanmar (known as Zomia) and lands of the First Nations (especially the unceded territories of British Columbia in Canada) bear 'oralitures' that describe routine scorched-earth intentions, and are fused with recent protest sites.

The Scorched Earthly accentuates poetic voices and artistic actions from terrains connected by their bearing and desisting of scorched-earth manoeuvres. Gathering new commissions, sound recordings, and objects associated with the oral tradition, Zasha Colah's fellowship with 221A culminates in an exhibition and "sit-in" at Ar/Ge Kunst in Bolzano, Italy, which opened in April 2023, as well as a research archive now housed at 221A's Fellowship Library in Vancouver, Canada.

The Scorched Earthly archive connects narrations of buffalo slaughter on Treaty 7 lands in Southern Alberta, Canada; songs of burnt forest land and Gaidinliu's coming of the heraka; the Black Priestess's reanimating a sacred forest in Zomia; the protest action In Defence of the Native Forest in Córdoba-Argentina (Argentina, 2017) with the human barriers during the Chipko movement (India, 1970s); the occupation of a national highway through Shaheen Bagh, and the farmers' protests in India; the Fairy Creek Blockade on unceded Pacheedaht territory (2020-21) in so-called British Columbia; and the htamein barricades from Yangon Artists' Street in 2021.

The project includes the work of:
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).

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

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Project Support

Supported by the Province of British Columbia’s International Presence Program

Canada Council for the ArtsCity of VancouverThe Province of British Columbia's Creative Economy Strategy