German police initiate probe into ‘racial attack’ on Malayali artist

Sajan Mani artist
Sajan said he faced racial attacks even from ticket examiners while travelling in public transport. Photo: Special arrangement, Instagram/ sajan-mani

Kochi: The German police have initiated an investigation into the incident in which Malayali artist Sajan Mani was attacked by a stranger in that country. Sajan, a visual artist hailing from Kerala’s Kannur, was attacked by a stranger on Thursday causing him head injury. He has alleged that racial discrimination was the motive behind the assault. 

Sajan was on Saturday discharged from St Marien hospital where he was rushed following the attack. He has been advised to rest for a few days.

The police have registered a case based on a complaint from Sajan and started an inquiry. The assailant was arrested from the crime scene and later let off on bail. 

Sajan has been summoned to the police station to record his secondary statement on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the prime witness in the case – Mila Panic, a fellow artist of Sajan – will depose before the police. The police will hand over the case to the state prosecutor after that, Sajan told Onmanorama.

Dr. Wolf Iro, the global director of the Goethe Institute under Germany’s Culture Affairs Department, on Saturday visited Sajan and offered him all legal help. Sajan said the German media have also contacted him.

The German Embassy spokesperson in Delhi, Sebastian Fuchs, has termed the incident shocking. “It is shocking to learn what happened to Sajan Mani. We express our strong solidarity and we wish for a very speedy recovery,” he was quoted as saying in an Indian Express report.

He said the police have not revealed the identity of the assailant to him. 

Sajan said he was attacked by an unidentified man when he was waiting for a bus in front of his studio on the outskirts of Berlin along with a fellow artist. "That man had a crutch with him. He pointed it to us and we moved away from there. Then I checked the bus time displayed there and began to walk with my friend. Then unexpectedly he hit the back of my head like smashing a golf ball. I fell down and he was still after me. I managed to crawl to the other side of the road. Then the police came and I was shifted to hospital in an ambulance. I have 30 stitches on my head and a few on my ear. Luckily, there is no brain injury," Sajan told Onmanorama from the hospital.

A recipient of the Berlin Art Prize 2021 and a recent fellow at Max Planck Institute, Sajan has been working on subaltern themes for long. Last year, he curated an artistic project titled "Wake up Calls for my Ancestors" based on colonial archives comprising South Indian photographs in the Ethnological Museum, Berlin.

Sajan has participated in international biennales, festivals, exhibitions and residencies, including The INHABIT, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (2022), Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University (2021-22) and Lokame Tharavadu by Kochi Biennale Foundation, (2021). In 2022, he was awarded the Prince Claus Mentorship Award and Breakthrough Artist of The Year by the Hello India Art Awards. Between 2019 and 2022 he received an artistic research grant from the Berlin Senate, Fine Arts Scholarship from Braunschweig Projects, and the Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellowship, Germany.

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