Chicago artist Pritika Chowdhry hopes King Charles can do what his mother didn’t

While many around the world mourned Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, many descendants of those under colonial rule had a more nuanced view of her legacy.

“I guess I had mixed feelings because on the one hand I felt sad about her passing because she’s such an iconic woman and she’s a mother and a grandmother,” Pritika Chowdhry said Friday, an Indian-born Chicago artist. “But on the other hand, there was kind of a feeling that she had this very long reign, in a very powerful role and that she could have done so much more to recognize the wrongs associated with the colonial history of the Britain.”

Chowdhry said that rather than confront these atrocities, the Queen avoided and often refused to make amends.

It specifically evokes the partition of India in 1947, which is the subject of Chowdry’s current exhibition at the South Asia Institute in Chicago.

Partition was imposed at the end of British colonial rule, when the country was divided into India and Pakistan, one with a Hindu majority, the other. Muslim majority. The result was religious genocides in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed in one of the largest migrations in history.

Chowdhry said that although the events date back 75 years, it still affected his family; his grandparents lived it.

“Admittedly, it happened under the watch of King George IV, but Queen Elizabeth took over soon after and not long after,” Chowdhry said. “She should have used her power and influence to make things right, but unfortunately she chose not to.”

Chowdhry said the partition of India is just one “dark story” of British colonial rule and that other countries around the world suffered at the hands of the monarchy. She hopes King Charles III can do what his mother couldn’t – that is, at a minimum, acknowledge the harm the British Empire has inflicted to gain power and influence. For centuries.

The next step to righting past wrongs, she added, would be to consider some form of reparation.

“I really hope he does something more than what Queen Elizabeth was able to do or chose to do,” Chowdhry said.

Chowdhry’s exhibition “Unbearable Memories, Untold Stories: Partition Anti-Memorial Project” commemorates the 75th anniversary of Partition. It is on display at the South Asia Institute, 1925 S. Michigan Ave., until December.

Contributor: WBEZ journalist Indira Khera

Remembering the Crooked Line: Skin of the Nation, installation view.

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