Celebrating the Mahatma

Shelly Jyoti’s work takes one back to our colonial past where Gandhi played a role in helping India achieve Independence.

Published: 25th September 2013 12:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2013 12:33 PM   |  A+A-

The teachings and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi hold as much relevance in today’s troubled times as they did during India’s struggle to free itself from colonial rule. In an environment where regional factionalism, violence and terrorism are becoming more and more frequent, understanding the Gandhian thought of sarvodaya and swadeshi is a much required task. It is this philosophy of non-violence, tolerance, peace and harmony that reflects in New Delhi-based artist and poet Shelly Jyoti’s new body of work that will be shown in a solo show titled ‘Salt: The Great March’ at Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts from September 28.

The show features a large khadi fabric site specific installation, a sculptural installation of khadi yarn, 25 khadi textile artworks using azrakh traditions of printing and dyeing and a multi-media spoken poetry presentation on the historic Salt March. These works draw upon the history of India’s colonial past and Mahatma Gandhi’s 1930 Dandi March, which began the Salt Satyagraha and became an important part of the Indian Independence movement. According to Gandhi, modern societies could become genuine, moral communities, only if the duty of citizenship was duly adhered to and this is what forms the basis of Jyoti’s new suite of works.

Jyoti’s art works on azrakh textiles explore social activism propounded by Gandhian philosophy of sarvodya which means uplift of all. The march towards salt becomes symbolic of self-discipline and self-limitation of human wants for communal harmony and moral society. Jyoti’s works have been done in collaboration with azrakh artisans of Bhuj, who faced and are still recovering from the disastrous earthquake. “I have been working with 9th and 10th generation azrakh artisans in Bhuj since 2009. To enhance the textile art, I used traditional needle craft technique with Sujni and nakshi kantha (running stitch needle work) stitches belonging to eastern India primarily done by Hindu women dating back to the 18th century. These have been created by using the skills of women’s collectives in India.”

While the 25 khadi artworks with quilting technique will be displayed as hanging tapestries, and Jyoti’s self-written poetry on the relevance of the Dandi march plays in the background, the showstopper is a large scale installation titled Integrating Khadi which has been made using 30 metres of khadi and printed with Sanskrit calligraphy. This installation represents the Gandhian thought of developing khadi across villages

for the economic independence of the then predominantly agrarian society.

Says Jyoti: “This concept is relevant even today from a nationalistic perspective. The expansion of rural khadi industry has not happened due to large scale industrialisation in the textile sector with large scale automation and synthetic fibres. I am exploring that if all could wear khadi, the commitment could bring back the nationalistic feeling in the 21st century.”

The other highlight of the show is a 12 foot by 8 foot installation titled Re-wiring A Non-violent Society, made of lightweight materials such as pipe cleaners, fabric, plastic, wire and thread. To be created like an interactive installation that encourages audience participation, as a throwback to Gandhi’s mass movements, this will be a work in progress by the artist in the gallery. The beauty in Jyoti’s work is that while drawing upon India’s colonial past, it also engages with contemporary economic interchanges.

(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)

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