If you know Dayanita Singh, you will have heard about Mona. Singh has been photographing her for 25 years. Mona is her muse, her confidante, her ally over the decades; we have come to learn that Mona is a major influence and a challenge in her life. Through Singh’s photobook Myself Mona Ahmed
we learn about Mona’s life, known beyond her gender – a life that endured adversity, pain and loss, but one that always remained optimistic in her journey.
Press play on the video
I am caught by Mona’s eyes, in them I find something mischievous, a spark that is deeply fascinating, mesmerising even. And she looks away. The music flutters in background, she adjusts her position, before the words of this familiar song begin to reverberate around the frame – Mona’s lips move. Her eyes close, and she recalls something.
The palpable intimacy of this moving portrait is symbolic. Mona represents a figure full of wisdom who will instantaneously envelope you.
In this space, my mind wonders too, I catch myself looking out of the living room window at the tree that has sprouted to life over the last twelve weeks. I recall my elders, remembering sitting by their feet, looking intently at their face like Singh does, and listening intently to their stories, their sagacity. In these fleeting moments of sitting with Mona, we are reminded of people closest to us, those that surround us, but also those that have gone, we recognise the fragility of our bodies. I feel empathy towards Mona, towards our current narrative, reminding us that we are connected, entangled and together.
Mona’s mind once more wanders, throughout the piece her lips continually urge words to sound, but nothing beyond the track is audible. Even when her face rests questions constantly seem to plague her.
I can’t help it, but I have to play the video again…and again…and again
In a moment where everything in our lives feels like it is colliding and erupting, where rest doesn’t feel restful – I take solace to be in Mona’s company for these three minutes and forty-five seconds…and again…and again…and again…
– Bindi Vora is an artist and curator, and Curatorial Project Manager at Autograph
Watch Mona and Myself here
, part of Frith Street Gallery at Home Presents: A Moving Image Programme. It’s available to view until 22 June.
Mona and Myself
Moving still image
3 min 45 secs, looped