A creative struggle

Two artistes explore the medium of embroidery while reminiscing about the Indian indigo struggle.

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Indian history is witness to Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against the forceful plantation of indigo by the British in Indian farms.

America-based Indian artistes Shelly Jyoti and Laura Kina are paying homage to the Indian Indigo struggle (The Champaran Satyagraha of 1916). Their medium of expression is unique — the traditional Indian embroidery. While the concept belongs to Shelly and Laura, the works have been done by several women artisans who make their living by practicing this art form.

Shelly Jyoti says, “My work is centered on historical iconographic elements within the cultural context of Indian history. I explore and construct the hermeneutics of period histories within the social economic and political inquiry of representation and identities. My works draw upon India’s colonial past but are also engaged with contemporary economic interchanges.”

The exhibition titled Indigo Narratives features sculpture, installation and paintings that incorporate hand embroidered textiles, printing on khadi, and Sanskrit calligraphy. Shelly adds, “My narratives are inspired by the accounts of the tyranny of British colonial indigo planters on native farmers of Chamaparan and Mahatma Gandhi’s subsequent intervention in Bihar around 1917-18 and the first Satyagraha led by Gandhi on the Indian soil after his fight against racialism in South Africa. The works engage textile references to coastal Gujarat and literary texts such as Neel Darpan. It also takes one through the history of India’s colonial past along with references to the indigo plant and dye.”

On the other hand, Laura Kina has portrayed the imagery that she finds on Demon Avenue in Chicago. Shelly points out, “Demon Avenue is a locality where many Indians reside and Laura feels very much a part of the Indian community there. Hence, she has portrayed a mini-India.”

Their works can be viewed at the Nehru Art Centre till January 18.

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