‘Art and culture being turned into commodities’ - The New Indian Express

‘Art and culture being turned into commodities’

Published: 15th May 2013 12:24 PM

Last Updated: 15th May 2013 12:24 PM

The Market is turning art and culture into commodities and it is playing a significant role in making art and culture as no more a tool of expression of people, said, Vinay Mahajan, Ahmedabad-based singer and social activist.

Vinay, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and his partner Charul Bharwada, an architect had left their corporate careers to devote themselves to music to initiate a social change through it. Both were in Kochi to attend a cultural get-together organised by Bob Marley Cultural Collective.

“Both of us are not trained singers. Inspired by the radical traditions of artists who related art and society, we travel throughout the country and sing songs on themes with social content. We mainly focus on livelihood issues as well as gender, communal harmony and environment”, Vinay said after performing in Kochi.

The couple do intensive research on livelihood issues and share the research findings through songs and other interactive cultural sessions.

“When the market is trying to replace participative cultural processes, artists have a historical responsibility to articulate the aspirations of the masses,” he said.

Referring to the songs on peasantry that he sang at the get-together, he said, “there are systematic attempts to destroy traditional occupations. Peasants and tribesmen and woman are being thrown out of their habitat”.

“Our field studies in Gujarat and Punjab convinced us that peasant suicides are a social phenomenon, it is policy driven. Distress suicides are the product of liberalisation. De Stress sessions by spiritual gurus cannot address these political questions but can help to obfuscate roots of the issue,” he said.

Referring to the largely unreported peasant suicides in Gujarat, he said, “neoliberal market is generating massive distress in the country side. Small and marginal peasants are forced to sell their land and migrate to urban areas where they work for meagre wages. Bhil tribes people who are losing their livelihood migrate to Saurashtra and work in big farms and construction sites”.

Narrating the cases of advertisement boards which read ‘villages for sale’ in certain parts of Punjab, he asked “how long can villagers continue in unsustainable modes of livelihoods”. Vinay Mahajan and Charul Bharwada have also studied and composed songs on  the life of pastoral communities, salt makers and fish workers.

Describing the life of  salt makers in Gujarat, he said “modern science and engineering have learned many things from the traditional salt makers. But urban India has a wrong notion that these people are illiterate and their knowledge level is very low. We are trying to break these myths through our songs,” Vinay Mahajan said.

“We had visited several states in the last months and we have articulated our concern through music. The response of people, especially young students gives us immense hope in our conviction  that things can be made more better”, he said.

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