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Dayanita Singh Profile Photo.jpg
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WORK by DAYANITA SINGH

 

Dayanita Singh uses photography, film and other media to reflect and expand on the ways in which we relate to images. Her artistic oeuvre over the years has had a kaleidoscopic yet unflinching focus on gender in India and the diaspora. 


Publishing books often without text is also a significant part of the artist’s practice. Taking over a decade to produce, Dayanita’s book, Myself Mona Ahmed, documents the life of her friend, Mona, who is a non-binary entertainer from a Muslim background.

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Cover from the Photobook Myself Mona Ahmed (2001)

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Pages from the Photobook Myself Mona Ahmed (2001)

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Pages from the Photobook Myself Mona Ahmed (2001)

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Pages from the Photobook Myself Mona Ahmed (2001)

This book weaves text with photographs of Mona’s unfolding life. When compared to a film that she made on Mona, the book offers a closer look at her inward journey as she navigates alternative social realities and sexual identities through an integration of visuals with texts.

 

As S. Kalidas summarises in a 2002 review: ‘Mona makes a case for the third gender - neither man nor woman but both. Throughout the book, the pronouns he and she are interchangeably used…She says she has been to Bangkok and seen the Thai she-boys; a plastic surgeon even offered to perform a sex change operation on her. Mona aspires to both womanliness and motherhood.’ This is evidenced by Mona adopting a girl child in the narrative. 

 

Sensitive and contentious, the photographs in the novel are striking for drawing upon non-binary traditions, extending their conventions, and foregrounding their culturally specific gendered marginality as a core part of Indian heritage.