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Salt of this earth

Salt of this earth
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This is perhaps the most befitting tribute an artiste could pay to the spirit of nationalism and swadharma synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi. After stunning the audience with her last show - held in Delhi in September 2013 - of artworks that married khadi with ajrakh traditions of printing and dyeing, Delhi-based artiste Shelly Jyoti is now presenting a new body of works in tandem with the Gandhian theory of satyagraha. The show titled Salt: The Great March II (Re-Contextualising Ajrakh Textile Traditions on khadi in Contemporary Art and Craft), will be held at The Art Gallery, India International Centre.

The show will be inaugurated by Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya (grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi and Chairperson, Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust). The show includes site-specific textile (khadi fabric) installations, garments with ajrakh printing, paintings that document 21st century textile traditions of India using clothing samplers, twenty four artworks utilizing Ajrakh textile traditions and a spoken poetry video film.

Talking about why she has been attracted to the Ajrakh tradition, Jyoti says, ‘Ajrakh is one of the oldest types of block printing on textiles still practiced in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. This is a centuries-old craft practiced by Khatris, characterized by its complex geometrical patterns, its use of natural dyes and its skilled, extensive production process. The patterns share similarities with ancient Indus Valley Civilization patterns, and the patterns of medieval cloths traded along the Indian Ocean route. The partition of India and Pakistan hugely affected the practice and trading of block-printed textiles. Many families were split up over the two countries, and displaced into new surroundings. I personally feel responsible towards the craft as I feel heritage should be preserved and documented through visual art works.’

Salt: The Great March II is a sequel project to Salt: The Great March I which was exhibited at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in Sept-Oct 2013. The Salt March series II, like its first edition, explores salt as a symbol of non-violence. The project is inspired by the Gandhian theory of satyagraha – a challenge to one’s own truth with stress on self-purification, self-examination and self-assessment. It stimulates our conscience and soul searching for the uplift of all (sarvodaya). These works further explore the practice of nonviolence, tolerance, peace and harmony through the narratives of swadeshi politics. The ‘Salt’ series draws 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.

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