Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Have a cry

When artistic freedom gets curtailed, it is time to get worried. Of late instances of moral policing are on the rise in India.

Fearing police intervention over the display of supposedly ‘obscene’ artwork, Mumbai’s oldest public art gallery, the Jehangir Art Gallery, has told Delhi-based artist Damayanti Sharma, who had booked its gallery number 3 for a show, that she could not put up some of her paintings “for fear of offending the sensibilities of some quarters”.
The shocked artist plans to go ahead with her show – minus the censored pieces – from today. “I had already created the artworks for my show. I didn’t consider them offensive at all, but when I sent photographs of 15 of my works to the Jehangir Art Gallery, I learnt that about a dozen of them could not be put up. The gallery’s secretary Karthiyani G Menon sent me back a list of my works, most of which were marked as inappropriate,” said Damayanti. Menon confirmed that she had seen Damayanti’s photos and recommended that some works be removed from her show. “Of late, we’ve faced quite a lot of harassment from the Colaba Police Station. The cops come, confiscate the art, sometimes arrest the artist – it’s embarrassing for us. We are, after all, a public institution. We’re still reeling from the legal repercussions of hosting a photograph of Vikram Bawa’s work that focused on homosexual love,” explains Menon. Vikram Bawa’s case went up to the High Court, where a private party sued Jehangir Art Gallery for vulgarity. Senior inspector Deepak Vishwasrao of Colaba Police Station, however, defended the police stance on action against ‘offensive’ shows. “Nude art or anything that offends the religious beliefs of any section of the people is problematic. It is not my job to decide whether artistic licence can be granted simply because an art work is in a gallery. We just implement the existing laws, and respond to the people who take offence,” Vishwasrao said.

To see a painting by the artist click on the link below.



myopic astronomer said...

hi Venkat

I read your articles on India and, in particular, our dismal education sector. I am a teacher/ researcher, with a hope (and plan) of changing this scene in my lifetime. I am connecting with like minded people for this common cause.

do get in touch when you find time.
ashishDOTasgekar AT gmailDOTcom


Shree Venkatram said...

Our education system does need an overhaul. I felt happy to know that you want to work towards changing it. I suppose because you are a teacher you see the rot at close quarters.
I had the occasion to visit some schools in the villages and small towns of UP recently. There were many single teacher schools. One teacher only for a hundred and more children! Our leaders have shown little interest in tackling this but keep bringing more and more seats under reservation in institutes of higher learning.
I found an article I wrote for the Indian Express in 2007 and have posted it in my blog. Do have a look.
And I would be interested in your plan.

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