Hum Sab Sahmat: Sahmat celebrates Independence, highlights relevance of resistance with remarkable exhibition

In 1993, Sahmat had held an exhibition of protest post Babri Masjid Demolition that had pictures of demolition and more

Hum Sab Sahmat: Sahmat celebrates Independence, highlights relevance of resistance with remarkable exhibition

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

In 1993, Sahmat had held an exhibition of protest post Babri Masjid Demolition that had pictures of demolition and more. Post Gujarat Genocide in 2002, it had put up another photo exhibition of heart wrenching photographs that narrated the entire story of the carnage where I met a young man from south of India, who ended up crying uncontrollably telling me the tales of the carnage that he witnessed, photographed then fell terribly ill out of trauma. Sahmat, from time to time keeps jolting people’s conscience trying to live in fools’ paradise.

It has done it again, yesterday.

It has mounted a huge exhibition of paintings displaying artistic expressions of over 261 artists, photographers and writers, at Jawahar Bhawan in New Delhi. These are their thoughts and ideas about the National Movement over the years, while alongside celebrating 75th Year of India’s Independence. The show, is a sudden reminder of what we were forgetting, that we need to look beyond cry for adhering to a colour, an ideology, idea of deshbhakti or history and realise that we are Independent, but may not be free – free to speak and protest in a democratic way.

However, the idea, as Ram Rahman, the well-known photographer and activist and a Sahmat founder was to mount it on the lines of its 1991 show called Word and Images, in which artists, authors and other creative fraternity had put across their ideas of India poetically, through strong images and words.

Hum Sab Sahmat: Sahmat celebrates Independence, highlights relevance of resistance with remarkable exhibition

The current show on view till August 14, is a “Reworking of that idea, in a different fashion as politics, situations, and socio-economic scenario has changed and spaces to exhibit have sizably shrunk”.

However, using the same model, artists were sent canvas of 15x15 inches for their expressions on the national movement and its values. As Sahmat’s core value is opposition of communal violence and communal culture through various medium of expression,” therefore, the show is certainly celebrating India’ Independence but not necessarily the nationalism grilled into the citizens' psyche these days.

And that’s why we do not see the national/mainstream media covering such a huge event where Shuba Mudgal, the classical exponent with a mammoth fan following, both among connoisseurs and the youth alike, had her concert, in a jam-packed Bhawan. It says a lot about how media works in our country today.

“We wished to do a street art show with it but now it is not possible,” Ram rues as one recalls how even minorities, especially Muslim street vendors can’t easily sell on streets without being harassed, mulled and beaten these days, how could an entire art show be put up on street? But then, it’s a movement with soft power, hence, this mammoth display would be made to travel to different parts of the country.

The exhibition feels as if the hungry artists have gotten a way to cry out their hearts. Especially the young generation. They have responded to the idea of National Movement by drawing farmer’s protest, Mahatma Gandhi’s core values, subtle Shaheen Baghs across the nation, protest against CAA/NRC, anger, anguish, anxiety, love, words and poetry. For instance, an artist from Jamia Millia Islamia has just written “Itihaas” (History) in black and that's it! A message powerfully conveyed!

It’s a renaissance of resistance

Sahmat received entries by 261 artists. Though I think this number is small considering the number of artists we have at every nook and cranny and there is so much to say. However, Sahmat members thinks, it’s a huge number considering the oppressing situation today and yet the artists had the courage to come out in open, paint with their names and signature and convey their dissent in such hard times.

A volley of such ideas and thoughts even by children have come up, which would be a part of the show in a few days.

The question, however is, do such show of strength where even artistes from the local and folk fraternity stand up, ultimately remain a closed-door seminar kind of protest/resistance, or does it culminate into anything of concrete?

The soft power of communication, I feel is the biggest and strongest that have slowly ushered revolutions across the globe and brought historical changes, well known artiste and founding trustee of Sahmat, M K Raina swears by it. “If you see, since 1990s, so many artistes have gone on the other (extreme) sides but we are still existing and making our presence felt and even travelling with it. The fact that folk artistes, painters, singers still come along with us, only goes to show that there is a solidarity to a common cause, or a goal of resistance” to undemocratic system and regimes. “Jaise mujhe Dagar (Classical Gandhrav exponent) ne kaha ki hum kya kar sakte hain? Hum sirf gaa kar hi support kar sakte hain”.

“The world’s most powerful revolutions have begun with intellectuals as they have the ability to think, read and look beyond the surface. Common people/masses don’t even know, where to go. They just look at their pain, feel it, cry over it and then see how such show of resistance works and then find some meaning, some sense into it. And slowly, many of them join too. Aap Kabeer (the sufi poet of love and humanity) ko gaate hain to vo Kabeer ko maar nahi sakte, rok nahi sakte…”, as Raina rightly puts it.

Sahmat by putting out 'Hum Sab Shamat' on the analogy of “Hum Sab Ayodhya” in the early 90s, is just attempting to reclaim the nation for its citizens, hence the title of the show – “Hum Sab Sahmat: Reclaiming the Nation for its Citizens”.

Idea of celebration of Independence

However, one does feel that the idea of the celebration of Independence should much depend upon how its people are treated, their health, and employment and living conditions. For instance, Bangladesh achieved Independence in 1971, today its GDP is more than India’s. Similarly, China has a critically infamous Constitution but it has been able to bring them out of poverty, despite being the highest populated country in the world. While it obtained Indepenece after India, in 1949. Now it is a leading power scaring the most powerful nations of the world! We know how the Constitution of UAE Works. We may moan its monarchy but under this still, it has given its people the best living conditions; so much so that India’s HNIs (High income group) are migrating to different parts of the world that includes UAE too. This exodus is humungous according to recent reports. Notably, the most recent (2018) by Hanley Global Citizens’ Report predict that 8000 millionaires would flee from India in 2022, and half of these would move to UAE. The report came on June 14, 2022 in various news media.

Coming back to the show, alongside the exhibition, there will also be an array of performance from leading exponents of Hindustani and Carnatic music, talks by public intellectuals, weekly film screenings as well as oral story telling, from July 2 to August 14, 2022 at Jawahar Bhavan itself.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 04 Jul 2022, 7:00 PM