Anila Gill & Anuja Dasgupta

Syrian Diaries presents a look into antebellum Syria, but with an acute sense of engagement vis-à-vis the present. The book had its genesis through an exhibition of the same name held by Anila Gill at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi in March 2017, bringing together images from her time in Syria as a French lecturer at the Al-Baath University (2001-2). This photographic diary served as a platform for a string of encounters along with reforging lost alliances that resulted in a cluster of shared anxieties, driving Anila to unpack those accumulated tensions altogether by turning the rewind crank of her Minox all over again. Each section of the book is streamlined according to the reassembly of moments made possible through a remapping of the sites she touched seventeen years ago, and that resurfaced through chanced exchanges at Jamia. The texts and images, with different timbres each, facilitate the simultaneous unbinding and binding of memories while nudging one to delve into the urgency of the issues that emerge.

Embedded in the language of this resultant medley is the difficulty inherent in revisitation of a past that cannot be relived, given the pursuit of politics that is now staged in Syria. Encountering one of the countless repercussions of this ongoing pursuit is what had enveloped Anila in disquiet. So she closes her diary on this note—transposing the inescapable anxiety into an unsettling conclusion.

Book photographs courtesy: Anila Gill

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