Meena Kandasamy, Literature, 2023

*1984 in Tamil Nadu, lives in Tamil Nadu and London

Meena Kandasamy is a poet and novelist who was born in Chennai, India. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch (2006) and Ms Militancy (2010). Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Gypsy Goddess (2014), tells the story of the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre. Her second novel, a work of autobiographical fiction, When I Hit You: Or, The Portrait of the Writer As A Young Wife (2017) was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. Her latest novel, Exquisite Cadavers (2019), is a work of experimental fiction that investigates storytelling. She divides her time between London and Tamil Nadu.

What Matters

Work Presentation 2022

“What Matters” was the question andtatement of 2022 presentation of works by the JUNGE AKADEMIE, the interdisciplinary and international artist-in-residence programme of the Akademie der Künste. In an exhibition and a multifaceted programme including screenings, concerts and readings, 29 fellows from all of the Akademie’s art sections presented sound and video installations, photographs, sculptures, paintings and performances they developed during their studio residencies in the Hansaviertel in Berlin and at Villa Serpentara in Olevano, Italy.

“What Matters” is not to be understood as the title of a thematic exhibition but rather indicates the diversity of questions, perspectives and realities that are interlaced in an artist residency, while emphasising their urgency. The exhibition focused on the artists’ individual approaches that encompass a broad spectrum of themes: from questions about the transformation of societies and their expression in relation to the urban space and landscape, to interrelations between the individual and social systems such as state, religion and the economy, to reflections on body images and conceptions of history, personal archives and the intertwining of nature, technology and culture.

What matters is artistic testimony, poetic resistance and the imagining of sustainable futures in the face of global tipping points – whether climatic or political in nature. Two years into the pandemic and the associated restrictions, “What Matters” was the most comprehensive presentation of works to date by the JUNGE AKADEMIE.

To quote one of the fellows: “What matters? Make them see…”


Poetry Performance

It is inconceivable to separate Meena Kandasamy’s poetry from its politics. Ms Militancy enjoys cult status among young feminists and anti-caste activists, even as Hindu right-wing organisations have burnt her books publicly and called for a ban from being included on university syllabuses. She faces death threats for her political writing and yet, has never backed away from the poet’s role of being society’s conscience. It is against this extreme backdrop that this performance came into being. INDIA IS MY COUNTRY is a bilingual (English and Tamil) performance of Kandasamy’s poems written in the last ten years. In these poems, previously performed on protest sites and at literary festivals, she deals with a panoramic range of issues: caste atrocities, the stifling of dissent through incarceration, the question of citizenship, rape culture, and the state’s abdication of its duty during the pandemic.