Mohandas Gandhi is well known for having inspired people all over the world, not just in India. The spirit of the Mahatma has brought 40 sculptors from across the world and the country to Mumbai, for the National Salt Satyagraha Project workshops at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Powai.
As a part of the project, IIT Powai has organized two workshops, inviting sculptors to come and create life-size sculptures of 80 marchers, who participated in the 390 km Dandi March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi with Gandhiji in 1930, to protest against tax on salt.
The first workshop, which was held in November, saw Indian artists create 40 of the 80 sculptures. The rest of the sculptures are being created by international artists, in the second workshop, which is currently under way at IIT Powai and ends on December 22.
Two Mysore-based Tibetan monks, Lobey Jangchu (39) and Thupten Tsering (30), initially did not know much about the Dandi March, but have found the journey so far very inspiring and educational. Tsering, who was born in India, says, “We usually work with the medium of butter. We are known for making butter sculptures in our monastery near Mysore. For this project, we are working with clay as our primary base and the two mediums are very different. Butter is very soft to mould, clay on the other hand, is very tough. The technique is very different as well.
These workshops are very educational. In a span of a few days here, I have learnt so much about Gandhiji and met so many people from different backgrounds and places. It certainly provides an amazing platform to not only exhibit your talents, but also meet artists from around the world.” To this Jangchu adds, “We are from Tibet and it is currently ruled by China, so just studying about Gandhiji and his struggle for India’s independence is inspiring. This experience is very important to us.
“In a way, through the sculpture I am creating, I want people to know that the violence and instability in Tibet is not called for, and we should also adopt the ideologies of Satyagraha for our rights. I moved to India in 1994 due to Chinese torture in Tibet. We didn’t have opportunities there for growth, for education or for living a life. Here, we live near Mysore, Karnataka. We have been able to live a fulfilled life, but I definitely wish to go back home and enjoy the same life there.”
Dr Manoranjan Herath (43), a professor at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, Sri Lanka, believes that the artists who are visiting don’t really need more ‘experience’, but are here to learn more about life and share stories. He says, “We are all very talented and knowledgeable. But this project has helped us come together and share ideas.
We are able to learn so many different things like techniques, about life, culture and art from other artists. I also feel it is an unbelievable project. We are doing 80 life-size sculptures and we have to be very accurate as we are depicting the Dandi March. We are commemorating Gandhi and it is an honour to be a part of that. We are people from different countries with different ideas and different backgrounds, coming together for one cause. That, for me, is Gandhiji.”
Through his sculpture, Professor Emil Popov from Bulgaria wants to tell people that Gandhiji was a great spirit and that we all need him today. He says, “Look at the world and its state. If he was alive, it would bring in some hope. When I was young, I studied about Gandhi and his struggle, and it is moving. In a way this project also represents Gandhi’s ideologies.
It brings together 40 different artists from around the world to cooperate, work together and create art in a very short time. Making a life-size sculpture in such a short time is not halwa!” Popov says with a smirk, clearly proud of his mumbaiya slang. “Gandhiji signifies the struggle against injustice, and leading such a successful movement is an achievement. We don’t come across such struggles, anymore”
Suu Myint Thein, principal of Alin DaGar Art School in Myanmar, says, “It was my longtime dream to come to India because Myanmar and India share similar cultures. I came to know about this workshop through a friend and I immediately applied. Mumbai is so vibrant. Every day I meet someone who has come from a different place and has a different story to share. India has a vibe that attracts me to it and being here, to make a memorial on Gandhi is amazing. This is every artist’s dream.”
Dandi march, 1930
On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and 80 marchers walked from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad to the coast near Dandi, to defy tax on salt imposed by the British Raj and manufacture salt on their own. The 24-day march, which ended on April 5, 1930 at 6.30 am, marked the first time the masses rose up against the injustice of the British government.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Dandi March movement, the Prime Minister in 2005 had announced the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi, Gujarat. The memorial will be 70 metres high with stainless steel arms, which will be lit by solar panels. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is responsible for the project, which will depict Gandhi followed by life-size sculptures of the 80 marchers who participated in the Salt March. The statue of Gandhiji will be inside a pyramid lit up by LED lights. The monument will be installed opposite Saifee Villa, at Dandi beach, Gujarat. Entry to the monument will be free and it will be open to the public from April 5, 2015. The building and installation of the project will cost around R 66 crore.
The building and the installation of the project is divided into two main categories; the art components and the infrastructure components. The art components have been built by artists during workshops organized by IIT Powai. The construction of the 80 marchers is Phase I of the project, while the building of the murals, is Phase II. Gandhiji’s statue is simultaneously being built by artist Sadashiv Sathe and the monument is scheduled to be ready by April 2015.
The art components includes
>> Gandhiji’s 15 feet high bronze statue (almost ready)
>> Life-size stoneware sculptures of the 80 marchers (complete)
>> 24, 6 feet x 3 feet, murals depicting the main events that occurred during the 24 day march (work to start in January 2014)
The infrastructure components includes (to begin in 2015)
>> Man-made lake
>> Solar panels installations
>> Other on-site requirements