SAHMAT Art Exhibition portrays resistance to the assault on Constitution

Commemorating the 70th year of the Indian Constitution, SAHMAT is organising an art exhibition at Delhi’s Jawahar Bhavan in which various kinds of socio-politically relevant artworks are on display

SAHMAT Art Exhibition portrays resistance to the assault on Constitution
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Girish Shrivastava

What can art do when horror comes calling? What can art do when civilization itself is lost? Brecht too had to confront this nihilistic question when he asked, "In the dark times, will there also be singing?" And the answer came jubilantly flying, "Yes, there will also be singing. about the dark times.”

And so there's a flourishing rich treasure of hard-hitting People's art among us today which questions the racial, socio-political & cultural injustices, hatred, divisiveness and oppressive regimes. When Art frees itself from the archaic corridors of institutions and their moribund academic pedagogy and intervenes social tension and reaches out to the masses, it becomes a resistance, protest or activist art. Picasso's "Guernica", Norman Carlberg's "Vietnam - War-Era Artworks, Susan Crile's image of "Torture of Abu Ghraib" are some very prominent pieces of the Protest Art among us today.

We too are witnessing a spurt of Resistance Art movement these days when our campuses are boiling against the divisive #CAA-#NRC. The ongoing State brutalities on the youth in the campuses all over the country have broken out a floodgate of sane voices of dissent and rebellion across the campuses and the youth today are painting their cities, towns and countrysides with the colours of inclusive India. From Jantar Mantar to JNU, AMU, Jamia to Shaheen Bagh to the various protest centres in all the major cities across the country, the aware and united youths today are enthusiastically painting their best ideas at public places, and thus venting their creativities, ideas, anger and angst in various art forms.


Commemorating the 70th glorious year of the Constitution of India SAHMAT is organising an art exhibition, curated by Aban Raza at the Capital's Jawahar Bhavan in which various kinds of socio-politically relevant artworks are on display for the public view. From the controversial Kashmir imbroglio, Dalit students outcry in the campuses, Anti-CAA-NRC protest to the direct threat to the Constitution -- these artworks encompass the ongoing public outcry against the dictatorial ruling of the present regime.

"The exhibition seeks to capture the spirit of audacity, the possibilities for the future, and the dream of change through resistance that WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA have solemnly resolved to uphold. Let our works invoke the name of the Constitution and become a celebration of the idea of India that we cherish -- an idea that not just defines India today, but that will become a foundational pillar of a just society tomorrow," thus sums up the curator Aban Raza about his guiding - philosophy behind this exhibition.

" The purpose is to celebrate the 70th glorious year of our Constitution and illuminate minds, rejuvenate its supreme power and as there's an imminent threat on it now, so defend its sanctity", added Raza.

Most of the participating artists are from Delhi itself, students, professionals, amateur and activists whose artworks were invited and selected by a panel of experts at SAHMAT. It's a culmination of more than 3 month-long active participation of these artists.

"Not everyone can face the public or media or make speeches. Art is another way in which we can express our views. And we have found in the last 45 days that it does convey our message very powerfully and effectively," says Preeti Singh, a participating artist who studied at College of Art, New Delhi.

Preeti participated at both Jantar Mantar and Jamia protests. Another artist Hafsa from Jamia Millia Islamia who wore an aqua coloured hijaab around her face, said," Wherever I go, I am constantly asked questions about why I am in hijaab. When the protests started, I saw people painting banners and posters with popular lines and quotes of Faiz, Ghalib, Gandhi, Marx, Ambedkar etc. I too was reminded of this popular couplet of Majaz, "Tere maathey pe ye aanchal bahut hi khoob hai lekin, Tu is aanchal ko ik parcham bana leti to achchha tha," (This veil on your forehead is beautiful, but it would be even better if you transformed it into a majestic flag). It's awe-inspiring and thus my calligraphic skills became a medium of expression on a broad banner", says Hafsa.

A paradox in itself, art can reflect beauty, speaking to our longing to experience it. At the same time, art can reflect the despotic and the revolting, either driving us away or charging powerful emotions in us. Art is a key element in contemporary social activism because more often than not, it takes visuals to get an important message across.

(The Exhibition is on Public View at Jawahar Bhavan, New Delhi till Feb.15).

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