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Artists as Activists spotlight: Malik Sajad

Written and illustrated by NCSML intern Melina Testin.

“…the historians were certainly cruel for not adding a few pages of happy ending to Kashmir’s story.” – Malik Sajad

Malik Sajad is a Kashmiri writer, cartoonist, and graphic novelist, born in 1986. Sajad’s career began at age 14 when he drew cartoons to accompany stories in a local newspaper. He attended Goldsmiths, University of London to study storytelling and visual art before returning to Kashmir to continue his career.

Sajad’s first graphic novel, Munnu, A Boy From Kashmir, is the semi-autobiographical story of a boy growing up in Kashmir. Contrasting the universal teenage tensions of family, friends, and school, are increasingly violent glimpses into the complicated world of political occupation, terrorism, and religious persecution. Munnu was first published in England in 2015, but the critical political content delayed its release in India. A copy of the graphic novel is available in Artists as Activists for guests to view.

Also displayed at the NCSML are panels from Sajad’s “Op-Art” articles: An 18-Month Old Victim in a Very Old Fight and A Wedding Under Curfew. Both pieces depict life under the military rule of Indian forces in Kashmir. Sajad’s cartoon panels show how life in Kashmir has been disrupted by raids, arrests, and curfews. The Indian military cut internet access in Kashmir in mid-2019 and communication has been difficult since. Sending the original artwork proved impossible, so Sajad emailed scans to the U.S. to be printed and displayed.

In a recent piece for the New York Times titled “Life in Indian Controlled Kashmir: The Longest Lockdown,” Sajad commented on the way increased travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders due to the Coronavirus have proven especially debilitating for those living in Kashmir, which has been in some form of lockdown for the past 30 years. As much as stay-at-home orders have affected the lives of Americans over three months, three decades of brutally enforced military lockdown are simply unimaginable.

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