The riots in Gujarat in 2002, which shook the entire country and claimed many lives, is still etched in our memories as if they happened yesterday. At that point in time, the artist community was looking to make a difference through a number of programmes and rallies.
But city artist Vasudha Thozhur had something different in mind. “The issue needed serious attention, and I wanted to widen the scope of the engagement,” says Thozhur, who initiated a project where she worked with six young girls who lost several members of their families during the violence. At present, the creative outputs from the project, which are mainly in the form of paintings, posters, prints, books and videos, are on display at the Sakshi Gallery, Colaba.
Talking about the project titled Beyond Pain: An Afterlife, Thozhur explains, “Initially, I collaborated with an activist /feminist writer, Bina Srinivasan, and later with Himmat, which was, at the time, a collective composed of riot-affected women from Naroda Patia. The third phase was the compilation of the project, which involved editing the video footage and the written documentation, printing the photographs and composing a display that could evolve a language of its own. Thozhur’s experience of working with riot victims has been special to her. “Initially, it was a very emotionally charged environment but gradually, the realities of everyday life, the struggle to get through the day given with basic amenities, began to overwhelm other concerns. There was no time to brood about the past.”
Ask her what she would take away from the entire experience and how it has changed her perspective on things, and she is quick to add, “I think I have understood the true nature of my socio-geographical environment, in a way that will help me reformulate the language of art in ways that would enhance real communication. And this again comes back to the notion of community, humanity and warmth, which actually underlies all the work that I do.” The exhibition is on display till the end of the month.