joint artists’ movement against fascism in India at Tate Modern – Turbine Hall

Here is presented an important project to which I artistically contribute. Turbine Bagh is a platform project ideated and realized by Sofia Karim. It was built around a peaceful protest that was due to be held in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern museum, London. The event is postponed due to COVID-19, but the movement continues. All started in 2018 after Sofia’s uncle, the photographer Shahidul Alam, was detained by the government of Bangladesh. She staged 2 protest exhibitions at Tate Modern, Turbine Hall and began making my own samosa packets for the Free Shahidul campaign. In Bangladesh street food, mainly samosas, are packed in paper bags made with used paper of all kind. Now, artists, writers, poets and thinkers from across the world are invited to create Turbine Bagh samosa packets. They would be displayed in the rice circle, then sent to Shaheen Bagh. ( see website )

rachela abbate TB_PLACEHOLDER_SAMOSA_MASS_EXHIBITION_WEB-845x845 @Turbine Bagh
Turbine Bagh placeholder for Samosa Mass Exhibition. Courtesy of Sofia Karim. Photo by Sofia Karim

Sofia Karim: “India was in the grip of mass protests sparked by anti-muslim citizenship laws. The Turbine Bagh movement emerged around a protest we planned for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The protest has been postponed due to COVID-19, but the movement continues. 

Turbine Bagh is a platform for resistance and international solidarity, working with artists, activists and human rights groups, not only in India but across the world. 

Turbine Bagh’ is a reference to Shaheen Bagh, the women-led protest in Delhi which was the epicenter of the resistance prior to COVID-19 lockdown. Led mainly (but not only) by Muslim women, Shaheen Bagh and similar protests it sparked across the country, challenged patriarchy but also western stereotypes of the ‘Muslim woman’. It was the largest women-led resistance movement of our time. Yet few in the UK seem to know about it. 

Our intention was to raise awareness and join the struggle. The word ‘bagh’ means garden. For one day we would make the civic space of the Turbine Hall our ‘garden’. A space for peaceful dissent. 

Events in India are the latest wave of a hard-line Hindu supremacist agenda and a wider project to create a Hindu nation based on Bhraminical Hindutva ideology. 

We are now at a precipice. The world’s largest secular democracy has turned into a fascist, Hindu supremacist state with relative ease. That is ominous and should be a lesson to the world.

The Hindutva project has been unfolding for many years prior to these citizenship laws. Kashmir – its autonomous status revoked by the Indian government in August 2019 – is now a prison, resembling occupied Palestine. The detention camps in Assam, terrifying in their vastness, are almost complete. They are not being built for nothing.

The president of Genocide Watch Gregory Stanton, said in December 2019:

“The persecution of Muslims in Assam and Kashmir is the stage just before genocide. The next stage is extermination—that’s what we call a genocide.”

rachela abbate A1_SAMOSA-SELECTION_WEB-845x597 @Turbine Bagh
Selection of Samosa packets. Courtesy of Sofia Karim. Photo by Sofia Karim

Home Minister Amit Shah calls Bangladeshi illegal immigrants “termites’’ and has vowed to “pick up infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal.”

In February 2020 a pogrom against Muslims took place in Delhi, coinciding with Trump’s visit. At the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally, crowds wore Trump and Modi masks. In his speech to the masses, Trump endorsed the Modi regime and declared fundamentalist Islam to be the common enemy. The next day, as the two leaders dined, Hindu supremacist mobs  burned citizens (mainly Muslims) alive, identified Muslim men by circumcision and desecrated mosques, while police stood by.  Some Muslims fought back.

Our UK Home Secretary Priti Patel congratulated Modi’s election victory last May. Former leader Tony Blair, who waged a War on Terror to “ free ” the world of religious fundamentalism, met Modi in October 2019, with other architects of the Iraq war.

Things have worsened under COVID-19 lockdown. There have been mass arrests of intellectuals, students and activists. Police brutality is normalised. 

I think the signals are clear. 

The Muslim population of India is around 200 million. Our governments may choose to remain silent, but it is our right and duty to speak. Are we going to speak out now, or look away?”

follow the project on Instagram:

on the website:

Sofia Karim has practiced architecture for over 20 years at studios including Norman Foster’s in London and Peter Eisenman’s in New York. Her practice combines architecture, visual art, activism and writing. Her practice combines architecture, visual art, activism and writing. Her activism focuses on South Asian human rights, artists’ freedom of expression and prison reform. She campaigned for the release of imprisoned artists, including the Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam and Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera. She has staged protest exhibitions at Tate Modern (Turbine Hall) and has appeared on BBC World News, Channel 4 News and Sky News. She is a visiting critic at Westminster school of Architecture.