HomeNews‘City of Faith’ exhibit celebrates South Asian religion in NYC

‘City of Faith’ exhibit celebrates South Asian religion in NYC

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NEW YORK (RNS) — In 2012, Erika Menendez shoved Sunando Sen, 46, onto the New York City subway tracks in front of an oncoming train.  

“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” she is quoted as having told police shortly after the fatal crime. Sen was born in India and raised Hindu.

In popular culture, New York City is often portrayed as distinctly secular. But “City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Space,” a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, suggests that the city — and the public spaces, scents, acts of solidarity and, yes, the hate crimes therein — can’t be understood without religion.

“I think religion is a subtext in the various spaces and conversations where we imagined it to be absent,” the exhibition’s curator, Azra Dawood, told Religion News Service in a recent interview at the museum. “And I’m really hoping that the exhibition surfaces some of the ways in which religion is actually a part of the city.”

“City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Space” is a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. RNS photo by Kathryn Post

Photographs displayed throughout the exhibit highlight how minority religious communities refuse to be boxed in by stereotypes. Photographed portraits by MIPSTERZ, a Muslim arts and culture collective, show Muslims grinning and striking poses in New York’s public landscape to reclaim the space. Portraits of New York-based Sikhs by Amit Amin and Naroop Jhooti celebrate people such as former NYC subway operator Sat Hari Singh. Singh, who saved 800 lives by reversing his train during 9/11, also successfully sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after it required employees to brand their religious headgear with MTA logos. These images provide a counterpoint to reductionist narratives.

While majority religions have the luxury of blending into a cultural landscape, the exhibit suggests Sikh, Hindu and Muslim groups don’t have that privilege. The flattening and racialized profiling of these communities is captured in the installation “CURB,” a sprawling book of poems encased in glass and placed in the center of one of the exhibit’s two rooms.

The poems — shown here as part of a limited-edition illustrated book that expands several feet when opened — explore violence against South Asian Americans in U.S. public spaces and are presented alongside two short films inspired by the poems.  

Poet Divya Victor, who was also an adviser on the exhibition, describes her poems as emerging from “the long wake of the Patriot Act,” the era of the Muslim registry and the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies.

“I knew that poets and writers would need to begin paying special attention to surveillance, spectatorship, supremacist vigilance, and monetized public confession,” she told RNS. “I also knew that I needed to document the fear that my family members began to experience in public spaces with the rise of anti-immigrant and specifically anti-Asian acts.”

Source : ReligionNews

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