SATI SERIES | 1996 - present

Sati is a charged topic. In Sanskrit, the feminine noun translates as "a good woman, a true wife", and when applied to a widow, means "a woman who sacrifices herself on the funeral pyre for the love of her husband." Forbidden by the British Colonial Government in 1824, sati is, to many people, emblematic of the oppression of women. Widows who refuse to "become sati" often were ostracized, while those who became sati were sanctified. Isolated incidences of sati persist to the present day, and the issue remains a hot-button issue for many Indian citizens, whether they support the practice or not.

A Western perspective may be deemed suspect when responding to a tradition alien to our contemporary culture. As a cultural outsider, Hashimoto abstains from facile judgment or didactic critique. She chooses instead to honor the women who died, and to reflect on the unusual wall of hand prints by creating her own manner of tributes. Memory and active remembering are focus. After researching several Indian woman who became sati, she fired calendrical pages of dates (see Sati Mark, January 6, for example), and, in the case of a 1986 sati, a photo of the face of its twenty-year old subject, Roop Kanwar.

Debate continues as to whether Kanwar went willingly to the pyre or was forced. Not all satis are known or recorded, and though Hashimoto researched those in this exhibition, she leaves some ceramic book plates and the hand prints on them unnamed and unclaimed, treating anonymity with equal reverence. One template of her hand prints comes from a mendi -- a henna design within a linear drawing of a human hand. The template, intended for any hand, becomes a universal "every hand". We need only look as far as the imprints on Hollywood's Walk of Fame to recognize the ubiquity of this particular impulse to memorialize. Hashimoto incorporates into the pieces a richly diverse array of primary source material, including Hindi romance novels, a children's picture book, a bilingual palm reading manual, excerpts from V.N. Datta's Sati A Historical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Hindu Rite of Widow Burning, and photos of Roop Kanwar and the sati marks at Jodhpur.

Nancy Baker Cahill, exerpt from herarticle in Ceramic Art and Perception