HYDERABAD: Re-Visiting Ekalavya’s Story’ by Subodh Singh Tirupati is a potent and loaded montage of drawings, paintings, and sculptures, aligning the episode of Ekalavya in the Mahabharata, to the Santal Revolt of 1855 and, the contemporary issue of Soni Sori, the Adivasi activist. Through, this exhibition he brings to the fore the subaltern communities systematic and consistent marginalizing of the tribes. Therefore, documented history cannot be relayed upon as it has been researched and reviewed that such documentation is biased.
Based on the narrative of Ranajit Guha’s book, titled, ‘Dominance without Hegemony: History and power in colonial India’ the exhibition’s premise is power struggle. As Guha’s narrative is at the crux of ‘Re-Visiting Ekalavya’s Story’, the show is embedded with social, political and cultural overtones. And, ultimately it is about attempting to create an unbiased Indian historiography. Says the artist: “What historians and theorists are trying to do with the pen, we are attempting to represent these marginalized voices of the tribal resistance movement which happened during colonial period with art, because ‘art is a language for us to speak, to express and to resist’. And by doing so the artist, in fact, enriches the content of Indian Historiography.
Therefore, this show has takeoff points from various materials that strengthen its line of thought. Hence, Subodh Singh Tirupathi’s reference points exist in visual material available in the form of etching prints of the colonial period. These gives an excellent account of murders, horrible living conditions and overall denial of justice to the tribals people.
Also, his attempt is to alter the mathematical perspective prevalent in these prints from indigenised sources to create an alternate perspective. “Most of these prints were part of the Company period’s policy of documenting the native people, and re-contextualisation of these visuals in postcolonial historiography is a necessary requirement for unfolding the unfamiliar narratives to defamiliarise the familiar”, says the artist.
The medium used by the artist also becomes the message of his work. The artist, in this case, used the parchment leather to drive his point home. For example, the Santhal revolt of 1855 A.D., which was suppressed by the colonial rulers in the first stage and further suppressed by colonial writers and later marginalized by the national elite historiography.
Finding a parallel in history and the parchment leather the artist expresses unuttered realities of a different period. Says he: “Their history is removed in a similar fashion like the way goatskin is removed systematically from its body to enjoy the meat (power) and now in our context, this flayed skin has taken the form of parchment leather. Interestingly parchment leather is used to cover drums so that it can make sound and therefore it became a useful material to voice the subjugated histories of people.” Re-Visiting Ekalavya’s Story opens on October 27, 2017, at the Nehru Art Gallery in the premises of the JNAFAU, Masab Tank. The exhibition concludes on October 30, 2017.