Nalini Malani was born in Karachi, Pre-Partition India. Following India’s declaration of independence in 1947, Malani fled her home as a child along with her family, and they settled in Mumbai as refugees. This experience of displacement and detachment has had an enduring influence on her artistic practice and her visual language, which give a voice to vulnerable and marginalised people, mostly women, through visual stories that link themes such as violence, race, religion and power.
During the first lockdown following the global health crisis caused by Coronavirus in 2020, Malani was staying in the Netherlands. For her, the impossibility of returning to her home in Mumbai was akin to reopening an old wound, namely the forced flight and subsequent confrontation with a different culture during her childhood. In relative social isolation she made a series of 89 drawings, entitled Exile – Dreams – Longing. The unrest, social injustice and violence in her homeland, the red brick architecture of her new environment, and familiar figures such as Alice in Wonderland are united in this eventful pictorial narrative.
Nalini Malani obtained a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Sir J. J. School of Art in Bombay in 1969 and was awarded an art scholarship by the French government to study in Paris from 1970 to 1972. Her work evolved from painting in the late 1960s to video and installation works in the 1990s. Since then, she has expanded her work into genres such as multimedia and experimental theatre. Her work was part of the World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam in 1998 and made history as India’s first multi-channel video installation.
Malani staged her first solo exhibition in Europe in 2007 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Malani’s work has been acquired by more than thirty international institutions right across the world, including the MoMa New York; The Metropolitan Museum, New York; The Solomon R, Guggenheim Foundation, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris; M+ Hong Kong; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Malani received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute In 2010.