The canvas might save Mumbai's horses

Jul 19, 2012, 08:23 IST | Dhara Vora and Fiona Fernandez

The cause and the canvas join hands as animal rights activist and environmentalist Maneka Gandhi's People For Animals along with Mumbai art gallery Art N Soul where a stunning range of rare, vintage lithographs will go on sale to rehabilitate our Mumbai's horses

It’s a strange co-incidence that artworks created by several British artists almost 200 years back have returned to the spotlight in a bid to save these hapless victims from the Raj era — the Victoria horses in the city. This year’s fundraiser of animal rights group People For Animals(PFA) has put together an exhibition of over 2,000 hand-painted lithographs.

Hand-painted lithographs by John Gould from the Bird series. Pics/ Satyajit Desai

These include the famous Bird series by John Gould (ornithologist and artist), Roses by Joseph Redoute, Plants by William Curtis and horticulturist Joseph Paxton and Aquatint by James Forbes (who was commissioned by the East India Company). The entire proceeds from the sale will go to rehabilitating the horses in the city, who are used to pull Victoria carriages other than several other awareness activities and shelters of PFA.

“People for Animals works on fundraisers every year. This year, in the conceptualising stage, we were in the process of brainstorming about a cause to support when the news about the condition of horses in the city came up, and so we decided to support it,” says Tarana Khubchandani of Gallery Art n Soul. Maneka Gandhi will be in the city on the first day of the event. “Apart from the sale for cause, the pieces are works of art. That’s the reason why we thought that these lithographs need a platform like the museum where everyone can view it. Also the cost of the lithographs start at `1,000, that makes it affordable too,” she adds.

Interview with Maneka Gandhi, Founder, People for Animals

How did the idea to fuse art and animal welfare come upon? How did you connect with Tarana Khubchandani?
From the time People for Animals started in 1992, we have been doing fundraisers with artists. In fact PFA did the first composite art show of 300 artists in 1991 — when Raza was worth 1 lakh!! Most of the artists are people I know, and I have always found them very generous with their work and their time. So, it was natural to tie up the two. We try and discover or bring to the table a new form of art every year. We were the first to do pottery with 500 studio artists, we did photographs of every well known photographer in India — 10,000 photos that went on sale, we did carpets from the works of eminent artists; 6,000 antique oleographs of Raja Ravi Varma. Last year, we sold 13,000 limited edition porcelain mugs of the top artists. This year it is British lithographs. Every year for the last 20 years it has been a different type of artistic expression.  I met Mrs Khubchandani when she did our carpet exhibition in Mumbai. Now, she will be doing PFA exhibitions every year whenever she has space in Art N Soul.

These lithographs are exquisite and unique. Were you involved in its selection?
I am always involved in the process — from concept to each item on display, to pricing. I make sure to under-price the item so people get value for money and have fun buying it. These lithos are 200-300 years old; we have specialised in flowers and birds.

To what extent do you believe that such initiatives can help capture and highlight the right audience to the causes like the welfare of horses?
People for Animals gets no money from the government or from any company CSRs. Therefore we are dependent on fundraisers to support 34 hospitals and all the work we do. We need medicines, medical equipment, ambulances and legal assistance all the time. We are trying to take the horses out of Mumbai; we have no idea of what that will entail in terms of cost. Therefore it is important that we get ready for it. Last year, we built a beautiful shelter in Mysore and another in Ghaziabad with the fundraiser money. Perhaps, we will have to build stables for the sick horses near Mumbai.

PFA’s work covers a vast scope of animal welfare needs; how do you find time for each of these causes?
I attend to each case as well as the ones that need policy changing and support. We have hundreds of people across India who attend to animals in their own areas and call me daily when they need help with the police or with emergency funding. I wish we had permanent support from a few companies

What can a sensitive, sensible Mumbai citizen do when such episodes occur on its streets?
The first thing every citizen can do is to write to the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai to ask for the horses to be removed. Refuse to ride on any horse, object to the owners and ask them to leave. When you see a limping horse, stop the carriage and call the SPCA, which is empowered to take these people to the police for intentional cruelty. The horses are only the beginning. Crawford Market’s animals that are sold illegally need to be tackled. It is shameful that such open violations of the Wildlife Protection Act are allowed. Next area of concern is the Deonar slaughterhouse. 

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