The recent violence and destruction all over the country, and Bombay especially, led painted Navjyot to pour out her emotions in an unusual multimedia creation.
Destruction and violence have become a global phenomenon. The human mind which is so creative and inventive at one level, can also be destructive and crude at another! With the world becoming smaller, it's impossible to remain unaffected by what's happening around one. But no one has ever been able to suppress the spirit of any culture or civilization. People's basic need to belong and to be loved has never ceased to exist. Yet then, why is it that we are unable to realize our desire for peace and harmony? It's a question we need to consider in depth.
Bombay, my home for the last 27 years and a supposedly cosmopolitan city, went through the trauma of communal hatred and violence recently. This has left scars deep in the psyche of its citizens and of the whole country. It was only after the storm and the shock had somewhat calmed, that one confronted the crisis of having to define and redefine one's own identity. It was also the beginning of a search to understand that, as long as one realizes one's concerns and commitments to one's fellow beings, one can identify with diverse cultures and humanities. There is always the need to learn from various philosophies, from events of the distant past and the recent tragic ones to prepare for the future. There is also the necessity to realize the basic humanistic values inherent in our cultural ethos.
It was out of these questionings that my painting, the tryptych 'Maori Kahe Kumhar Se' was born. My other works, 'When Walls Cease To Be', 'Rebuilding'. 'Laying The Pipes' and 'Climax of Joy' (1992- '93) were works done before 'Maati...' as a tribute to the human capacity to overcome crisis.
The whole concept of my recent exhibition 'Links Destroyed And Rediscovered' held in Bombay (March 18 -April 2, '94), took root early last year after the traumatic riots. The constant coverage in newspapers, the television reports, visits to some of the affected areas and meeting the people who were in the midst of it, brought forward one fact - and that was - that this was not a people's battle, nor was it a battle about the Hindu/Muslim divide. This was a riot of hatred instigated by the fundamentalists-politicians-underworld nexus in which the common man, Hindu and Muslim, was deeply traumatised. It was an attempt to destroy human links which are the basis of a healthy society. It is up to us to be consciously determined that no such fascist forces are able to alienate us.
As a human being and a committed citizen one fights at one level. And as an artist there is a constant attempt to renew and reinvent one's artistic expressions to reach out and to communicate. Thus, it was at this point that I had a deep urge to interact with those working in other mediums but with similar commitments. The statement l needed to make, I felt, needed a working out of a multimedia projection.
Neela Bhagwat's 'Sadho Dekho', a 'bhajan' originally written by Kabir, is as relevant today as when it was written 500 years ago, compelling one to think that tendencies to destroy in the name of religion, destroy faith in humanity. Neela felt the same way. She says, ''Love is the source of inspiration for everything in life. That the sun will rise tomorrow is a belief one ends the day with."
Both the short films. 'Bombay - A Myth Shattered' by Teesta Setalvad, and 'I Live In Behrampada' by Madhushree Dutta brought forward the discontent, anger and agitation of the affected people. They all wanted to live in peace.
I was very keen to incorporate these images from the films along with my painting and sculptures. My concern was to bring out the impact of those terrible moments. Teesta and Madhushree, both understood my need to screen the films without audio and co-operated fully by lending their films.
Painting could have been my medium. But exploring new possibilities of expression is as much a creative need as is the manipulation of materials to create new symbols. I have integrated my ongoing thematic concerns by using multimedia with the hope that the vast scale and the visual complexity of the form will provide a forceful presence.
The installed structures were created with 9000 m. of P. V. C. pipes, old wooden door frames, rails, bamboos, iron strips, soil, pieces of aluminum wire, burnt paper and plastic. The wood panels had painted canvases and painted plaster sculptures (heads), screen-printed female images were repeated on the wood panels and acrylic strips. The two TV sets were placed just next to the panels with both the films running simultaneously.
The systematically placed panels symbolise the whole activity of painting - of conscious effort.
Most of the images look upward, as though questioning. The images of the screaming female repeated in screen prints can be taken as mother earth or any woman who cannot accept the inhumanity of death and destruction. The aluminum wires pinning the earth signify its misuse. Urban greed is symbolised by the play of red and black pipes running alongside, where suddenly the red is swallowed by the black. But its reappearance indicates rejection of violence and resurgence of hope. The big installation, with black pipe coils,, carefully damaged, running endlessly through a row of black door frames, symbolise corrupt system.
During the process of this construction, my intention has been to question our attitudes, to situations we are trying to cope with, and learning to discover ways to allow each one the freedom to grow and breathe.
There is always the need to learn from various philosophies, from events of the distant past and the recent tragic ones to prepare for the future.
There is also the necessity to realise the basic humanistic values inherent in its own cultural ethos.
First published in Femina, June 8, 1994.