Masterpieces for the Mahatma

Updated: Sep 11, 2019, 09:19 IST | Dalreen Ramos |

To commemorate Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, a two-day exhibition at Mani Bhavan will showcase his legacy through 25 artworks from across the country

Sanjhi artwork of Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi
Sanjhi artwork of Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi

When the name of a person is synonymous with the name of a country, it is difficult to put into words the magnitude of their impact, even long after their death. So much so, that even the call sheet for the funeral of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's 1982 award-winning film Gandhi seems like a masterpiece in production with over 3 lakh extras.

Closer home this Friday, artisans from across the country will come together to showcase Bapu's life and legacy through an exhibition at his residence during his visits to the city, at Mani Bhavan.

Choti Tekam's Gond painting of the three wise monkeys
Choti Tekam's Gond painting of the three wise monkeys

An initiative by the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of India, Relive the ideals of the Mahatma through Art is a two-day exhibition that aims to commemorate his 150th birth anniversary. Comprising 25 artworks, the show also displays 12 art forms including papier mache, warli, pattachitra, gond and mata ni pachedi.

After travelling to Delhi, Pune, Gujarat and Kolkata, the sixth edition of the exhibition comes to Mumbai before it travels to London for a showcase at the Nehru Centre on October 2. "We began conceptualising this in August last year, commissioned paintings by also outsourcing it to an external agency and gave each of the artisans a brief. But each had their own interpretation," says David Rasquinha, MD of the bank.

A Tanjore painting by Rama Sriram is representative of communal harmony
A Tanjore painting by Rama Sriram is representative of communal harmony

Interestingly, the idea of the show germinated from the routine of preparing desk calendars. The corporate communications group of the bank was ideating on how they could create unique calendars. Under the bank's wings they also had a programme to help artisans and people from disadvantaged backgrounds and had been conducting workshops. So, they were able to tap into their talent by commissioning artworks.

"The agency was only hired for last-mile engagement because as a bank we do not have the bandwidth to keep contacting all of them. But we did do a fair bit of research and were also equipped to execute it since we have worked with artisans for corporate gifting," he adds.

A deptiction of the Dandi yatra in Mata ni Pachedi
A deptiction of the Dandi yatra in Mata ni Pachedi

Each piece will also be accompanied by text stating the art form, artist's name and where they come from, as well as their reflections of the work. For instance, Bhopal-based artisan Choti Tekam, who has been painting gond art for 18 years, has rendered a unique interpretation of Gandhi's three wise monkeys — with tigers instead, in a jungle.

"I completed this in one week. My biggest learning from the Mahatma was his struggle for the truth. It mirrors my struggle in the art world because it was a very slow start, and has taken me a long time to get here."

Choti Tekam
Choti Tekam

Through the event, upcoming artists like Tekam hope to find a platform. Even for Chennai-based Rama Sriram, a former banker-turned-Tanjore artist, marketing the art form is a huge task. "I haven't promoted myself on social media yet, so I sell my work only locally. This is my first exhibition. Few people are educated about Tanjore paintings, and because of the use of gold foil it is only visible to the elite.

David Rasquinha
David Rasquinha

This needs to be introduced in art and craft classes in school," she explains. The exhibition, thus, is only a way of introducing viewers to the broad spectrum of Indian art, just like the Swadeshi movement that the Father of the Nation was at the forefront of.

On September 13 to 15, 10 am to 5 pm
At Mani Bhavan, 19, Laburnum Road, Gamdevi.
Call 23805864
Free

Rama Sriram
Rama Sriram

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