Shelly Jyoti is on a quest to disseminate Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of self-righteousness through her artworks.
Using khadi fabric at her ongoing exhibition in Delhi, titled An Idea of Swaraj and Collectiveness, the artist has attempted to reinforce the importance of this cloth, once used by Gandhi to boycott British goods.
The show includes 30 Khadi scrolls depicting Ajrakh block printing from Kachchh region in Gujarat. The scrolls feature fish motifs which according to the artist represents a collective force, “Fishes can displace water to create oceanic currents, just like people when together can bring considerable change in societies,” she says, adding, “when a number of people will buy khadi from the rural population of India, it can help us becoming swadharmi, Gandhi’s concept of a righteous society.”
According to her, she is being swadharmi by buying clothes with an intention of helping the craftsmen while hoping that the concept is followed by many civilians.
She says, “The khadi fabric has many advantages over other textiles. Being warm in winters and cool in summers is one among many.”
The block prints used by Jyoti for the artworks are going back to 18th century. “These blocks in a way forms the vocabulary of all the prints displayed here,” says the artist who has also installed a few of the Ajrakh blocks at the venue.
On display is also a pocket-sized book, titled Hind Swaraj. The book, written by Mahatma Gandhi in 1909, is a seminal work which takes an anti-imperialist stance.
Here the author has situated himself in an interviewee and interviewer format and answered many of the questions where he critiques the implication of western modernity for India. Quotes, significant to the artist, from the book are on display in the show.
With a literature background, the artist constantly uses books for the research. “For my show in 2009, titled Indigo Narratives, I read Nil Darpan, a play written by Dinabandhu Mitra on the situation of farmers who were forced to do Indigo farming in Bengal. I found that the situations of farmers are not very different from that time. Given their turbulent life, they are still dying.”
Jyoti also takes references from essays and books written on the Father of the Nation for her exhibits. “Since my first show in 2009, I started delving into Gandhi’s philosophy.
I came across accounts by Dr Rajendra Prasad on Gandhi’s conversation with Britishers, two books by Thomas Weber, titled On the Salt March and The Journey of Gandhi among others.