From US President Barack Obama to a young collegiate, Mahatma Gandhi represents varied metaphors for people world over. Now,a group of 24 artists have retraced the Mahatma's historic salt satyagraha route to come up with unique interpretations to rediscover Gandhi's message.
Under the project, "Thou are the salt of the Earth" curators Anubhav Nath and Johny M L gathered well-known Indian artists to follow in the Mahatama's footsteps, beginning from Sabarmati and walking through 40 villages along the western coast of Gujarat before culminating the journey in Dandi.
Resulting artworks inspired from the walk are set to be displayed in a week-long exhibition "Freedom to March Rediscovering Gandhi, beginning November 12 at the Lalit Kala Akademi here.
"Mahatma Gandhi selected salt as his metaphor. In this project we explore multiple metaphors- the salt march as envisioned by Gandhi, how do people perceive the march today and also our perception of the Mahatma and the understanding of his message," says Nath.
Nath along with art-writer and critic Johny M L and 20 artists visited the Dandi March route in three batches over the period of two years beginning last year. "Gandhian act of dandi march is the supreme example of showing political resistance.
Apart from political principles Gandhiji was always interested in aesthetics and he put it in such a way that could reach out to the masses. My idea was to look at the performance that he employed to reach out," says Johny. The curators hope the exhibition would create a dialogue between artists and the audience. "We are not offering any solutions or alternative practises or ideas. Through this set of works of art we want people to talk and discover for themselves the relevance of Gandhi in their lives," says Johny.
The around 50 works on exhibit is pegged by the curators as one of the biggest performance art with focus on new and emerging media. "K S Radhakrishnan is attempting a digital work for the first time. Other artists who are experimenting with digital art are Manjunath Kamath, Gigi Scaria, Vivek Vilasni, Murali Cherooth and Rameshwar Broota among others," he says.
Atul Dodiya who has done a series of large watercolours on Gandhiji in 1999, says the Mahatma still holds relevance for him today.
"When I embarked on the journey I did not have an agenda but on the way in the small town of Kareli, one of the stops of Gandhiji I was struck by a museum that was gloomy and displayed a sign in Gujarati. I have translated the sign into English and set it amidst a series of photographs of local people and foreigners who frequent Dandi beach.
"Without being judgemental I have depicted the relevance of Gandhiji among today's youngsters," says Dodiya. During the course of the journey the curators discovered several new things. "For students of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, spinning every day at 11 am is a usual thing. Even if they are in the middle of an examination they stop to spin, that is something very usual in this time and age," says Anubahav Nath. The 50 works of art in the exhibition containing paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and new media - are pegged at various prices starting from Rs 30,000 and would be put on sale, the proceeds of which would go towards the Ramachander Nath foundation.