Art honours farmers who lost lives during agitation: 'Cut all the flowers but cannot stop the spring'

'The structure might look fragile, but it is actually quite well-built. It resonates with the protesting farmers. They might appear weak and helpless, but we have seen the strength of their resolve'

The installation at Shahjahanpur on the Delhi-Rajasthan border
The installation at Shahjahanpur on the Delhi-Rajasthan border
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Sukant Deepak

When Yogendra Yadav called him to discuss a memorial at Shahjahanpur on the Delhi-Rajasthan border to honour farmers who had lost their lives during the agitation, it did not take long for Ahmedabad-based artist Lalon, who had been following the protests closely, to jump into his worn out car with his friend Shubham Singh and undertake a 14-hour journey to Delhi.

Reaching late at night and sleeping in the cold, waking up to see the protesters braving everything with a smile, the NID-pass out remembers recalling Pablo Neruda's lines...You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring from arriving.'

Lalon
Lalon

Using materials like terracotta and iron --- the former being earthen and latter, known to be sturdy, signifying the agriculturist's close relationship with earth and undying spirit, he says, "If you look at the structure, it might look fragile, but it is actually quite well-built. It resonates with the protesting farmers. They might appear poor, weak and helpless, but we have seen the strength of their resolve," says the artist about the installation that was completed on April 14.

They had three days to put up the installation. When farmers saw them working under the blazing sunlight, some offered them tea, others chaach. Many also started lending a hand. "Just when I was apprehensive about finishing the work on time, some 10 farm hands showed up and helped us build the walls. And when we needed mud, one of them brought it on a tractor. And magically, the entire base was prepared in merely four hours."


Next to the installation was a police barricade. When they would stay up at night, policemen would always offer them tea.

Lalon remembers that when one day, when he was working with his shoes on, an elderly farmer asked him to take off his shoes, stressing, "It is a memorial."

"As an artist, this was the biggest compliment."

Although there was a debate if concrete should be used in the installation, the artist was completely against it. "When you create a sculpture depicting farmers, it should not represent ego, but empathy. So, the material used is very simplistic. And instead of using concrete, we let grass grow at the bottom."

Originally from Bengal, Lalon, currently a Phd scholar at NID, says, "Traditional art forms like some sculptures and paintings cannot be effectively communicated through social media. If you make a sculpture, it needs a physical dimension. When it comes to subjects like the farmers' protests or the CAA-NRC protests, it becomes important to visit the site physically.”

"When I visited the farmers' protest site, I gathered stories and gained experience that will inspire me to do artwork for the rest of my life. It has helped me see our society from a unique and different perspective." (IANS)

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