Shelly Jyoti Presents Salt: The Great March at IGNCA

October 15, 2013


New Delhi: Exploring salt as symbol of non-violence and investigating sarvodaya theory in practice of non-violence, tolerance, peace and harmony through the narratives of swadeshi politics, Gurgaon-based artist and poet Shelly Jyoti brings forth a new body of work in a solo show titled Salt: The Great March by re-crafting contemporary quilt-making traditions in Azrakh textiles. Featuring a large khadi fabric site specific installation, sculptural installation of khadi yarn (aatis), twenty five contemporary artworks using azrakh traditions of printing and dyeing on khadi fabric needle crafted by women, and multi-media spoken poetry presentation, the exhibition is mounted at the Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts, New Delhi (September 28 till October 20, 2013).

These works draw upon the history of India’s colonial past and Mahatma Gandhi’s 1930 Dandi March, which began the Salt Satyagraha and became an important part of the Indian Independence movement. According to Gandhi, modern societies could become genuine, moral communities, only if the duty of citizenship was duly adhered to. This forms the basis of Jyoti’s new suite of works, which is in continuation to her previous Indigo: Neel Darpan series. Neel Darpan (1860) is a literary text symbolic of yet another anti-colonial, non-violence movement that took place in 1917-18 as thechamparan movement for indigo farmers in India.

In her new body of works, Jyoti explores the possibilities of establishing alternative societies where Gandhian ideals of ‘swadharma’ and ‘sarvodya’ could be established through their sincere implementation. In a society where patriarchal values threaten the free existence of women, the artist feels that re-introducing Gandhian ideals with critical changes would function as a correctional force.

Jyoti’s art works on azrakh textiles explore social activism propounded by Gandhian philosophy of sarvodya which means upliftment of all. The march towards salt becomes symbolic of self-discipline and self-limitation of human wants for communal harmony and moral society. “I am investigating that art through sarvodaya concept when intervened with social issues that are destabilising the social fabric in our lives - canswadharma become a movement for upgradation of societal values! What are the  implications of involving art with its audiences where corrupt and corroded human values erode the strength of the societies, communal living and believing.”

Interestingly, Jyoti’s works have been done in collaboration with azrakh artisans of Bhuj, who faced and are still recovering from the disastrous earthquake. “I have been working with 9th and 10th generation azrakh artisan in Bhuj since 2009.  My aesthetic decisions regarding this textile printing and dyeing technique are informed by elaborate textile processes that go into creating one artwork. To enhance the textile art, I have further used traditional needle craft technique with Sujni and nakshi kantha (running stitch needle work) stitches belonging to eastern India primarily done by Hindu women dating back to the 18th century. These have been created by using the skills of women’s collectives in India.”

While the twenty-five khadi artworks with quilting technique will be displayed as hanging tapestries, and Jyoti’s self-written poetry on the relevance of Dandi march plays in the background, the showstopper of the exhibition is a large scale installation titled Integrating Khadi which has been made using 30 metres of khadi and printed with Sanskrit calligraphy. This installation represents the Gandhian thought of developing khadi across the villages for the economic independence of then predominantly agrarian society.

 Says Jyoti: “This concept is relevant even today from a nationalistic perspective. The expansion of rural khadi industry has not happened due to large-scale industrialization in the textile sector with large-scale automation and synthetic fibres. I am exploring that if all could wear khadi, could the commitment bring back the nationalistic feeling in the 21st century.”

 The other highlight of the show a 12 feet wide by 8 feet installaltion titled Re-wiring A Non-violent Society, which is made of lightweight materials such as pipe cleaners, fabric, plastic, wire and thread. To be created like an interactive installation that encourages audience participation, as a throwback to Gandhi’s mass movements, this will be a work in progress by the artist in the gallery.

The beauty in Jyoti’s work is that while drawing upon India’s colonial past, also engages with contemporary economic interchanges.