crisis care catharsis


Salam Chechi, 2018 Painted in Casein Tempera, mounted on board (5 plywood panels)

Salam Chechi is a five-panel painting composed with images and quotations, appearing as a massive storyboard. The word ‘Chechi’ in Malayalam translates to ‘Sister’, a term often used in Kerala and elsewhere to address nurses in hospitals. Drawing from personal experiences, Sheikh pays tribute to the professionalism of Malayali nurses, despite facing issues of displacement, discrimination and exploitation.

There is a serene and silent ambience of care and healing that is evoked in the treatment of the painted surface. An elderly patient attempting to stand upright with the support of three nurses occupies the main frame, while the lower section depicts nurses attending a woman. On either side, the two narrower panels depict the interiors of a medical care centre. A commentary on the Libyan civil war and contribution of Malayali nurses is narrated in one of the narrower panels. Quoting journalistic reports, the artist discusses how these female workers were forced to immigrate back to the conflict-ridden areas because of the relatively lesser wages they receive in their homeland.