Art in India has been an effective tool of social change for the last two decades engaging with issues, problems and politics in the society.
A new book, "The SAHMAT Collective", co-edited by Jessica Moss and Ram Rahman chronicles the journey of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) and its engagement with secular arts since 1989 when it was founded as a tribute to the legacy of Left activist, human rights crusader and progressive cultural icon, Safdar Hashmi, who was beaten to death while staging a street play at Sahihabad outside the capital.
The book documents and analyses the impact of the Left movement on the evolution of the country's popular aesthetics and how it has battled gag time and again while campaigning on secular agendas in plural India with the help of arts.
The contributors to the volume include Prabhat Patnaik, Madan Gopal Singh, William Mazaarella, Geeta Kapur, Karin Zitzewitz and Rebecca Zorach.
"It is a mammoth project - a huge book of 300 pages, 430 illustrations and five analytical essays. Three of the essays are by American scholars that present oursiders' view of the SAHMAT and its influence on the country's psyche," Ram Rahman, a senior office-bearer of SAHMAT , told IANS.
The book was launched at the Indian Council for Historical Reasearch late Wednesday. It is priced at Rs. 2,000.
Over the decades, SAHMAT has offered a platform to artists, writers, poets, actors and musicians to create and present works that promote artistic freedom, secular and egalitarian values.
The book was conceived as a companion to a restrospective exhibition of SAHMAT's activity, "The SAHMAT Collective" at the Smart Musuem in Chicago.
The book explores the contemporary art scene in the capital while meditating on the power of art as a tool for social change through case studies, new scholarship, vivid images, reprints of original articles, essays and interviews, Ram Rahman said.
He said "situating the collective within not only the political sphere in India, but also on contemporary art trends from around the world, this beautifully illustrated volume offers critical essays on the art produced by SAHMAT and texts on the social, political and artistic climate of India.
Beside the account of exhibitions document Ayodhya demolition, the movement of progressive theatre and cinema in India, the book has a special chapter dedicated to artist M.F. Husain, "Husain at 94".