Santati at NGMA Mumbai commemorates 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi
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Santati at NGMA Mumbai commemorates 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi

Curated by Lavina Baldota, the multi-disciplinary exhibition encapsulates the life of the Mahatma, sending the onlooker on a beautiful journey of introspection and self-discovery.

by Ronitaa Italia Oct 10, 2019

It’s like stepping into a time capsule where versions of the past are engaged in a commentary-dialogue with interpretations of the present. The versions are of the Mahatma and his way of life, and the interpretations are by various artists, literary artists, designers and architects. Santati, an exhibition commemorating 150 years of the life, legend and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, is being hosted at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai.

Unraveling over various levels of the NGMA, the exhibit is immersive, to say the least. From art and light to photography, textile, reprints and even poetry, the unravelling of Santati, as you progress from one floor to the next is at once unpredictable and engrossing. I totally understand and couldn’t agree more with curator Lavina Baldota as she says, “Santati for me is a limitless canvas of introspection and self-discovery. Woven by yarns of ethos derived from Gandhian influence rendered with the hues of my most intrinsic emotions, especially love and pride for my roots, my country, its leaders, artists, artisans, aesthetics and its rich heritage.”

Ashiesh Shah’s The Lingam Bench No 2 in the foreground with his Intersect Stool and the Mahatma’s ashes (lent from the collection of Shri Kishore Jhunjhunwala) covered by a glass vitrine by Klove, in the background| Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
Ashiesh Shah’s The Lingam Bench No 2 in the foreground with his Intersect Stool and the Mahatma’s ashes (lent from the collection of Shri Kishore Jhunjhunwala) covered by a glass vitrine by Klove, in the background Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

The first mezzanine level elicits an almost breathless pause, as you stop and stare at the moulded fabric installation by couturier Gaurav Gupta. Inspired by the sound of the Mahatma’s perfect heartbeat, Gaurav combines the infinite quality of the former’s ideology of ‘my life is my message’ with the rhythm of his heart and the fluid, unidimensional flow of khadi. And then comes the ‘Shanti Totem’, with its handcrafted channapatna beads and well-composed height of 1.64m, symbolic of the Father’s physical form.

Gaurav Gupta’s sculpturally draped and moulded fabric installation | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
Gaurav Gupta’s sculpturally draped and moulded fabric installation Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

Moving on, the NGMA has lined up selected photographs by Kulwant Roy from their own permanent collection, celebrating the Mahatma’s life, his comrades, his contemporaries, his actions and pastimes — some of them so telling in their absolute candidness. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Jawaharlal Nehru, MA Jinnah, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Sardar Patel are some of the other faces you’ll see in these photographs and broken negatives.

One of the photographs by Kulwant Roy, showing the Mahatma alighting from the train at New Delhi, in the 1940s | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
One of the photographs by Kulwant Roy, showing the Mahatma alighting from the train at New Delhi, in the 1940s Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

As you move to the next level, a three-dimensional mid-century installation by Klove Studio highlights ahimsa (non-violence), in a most mysterious way using optical illusion, spatial play, rock salt and delicate illuminations. Gandhi’s powerful belief, “in a gentle way, you can shake the world,” is the central point of this creation. Embroiderer Jean François Lesage’s hand-embroidered letters by the Mahatma touch an emotional chord as you are taken back to a time of strife and fervour.

  • Embroiderer Jean François Lesage’s hand-embroidered letters by Mahatma Gandhi | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
    Embroiderer Jean François Lesage’s hand-embroidered letters by Mahatma Gandhi Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia
  • Embroiderer Jean François Lesage’s hand-embroidered letters by Mahatma Gandhi | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
    Embroiderer Jean François Lesage’s hand-embroidered letters by Mahatma Gandhi Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

“India must protect her primary industries even as a mother protects her children against the whole world without being hostile to it,” said Mahatma Gandhi in his time, and no words hold truer today, considering the state our handloom industry is in today. Sure enough, while handweaving is considered a dying craft, textile designer Gaurang Shah highlights the potency of khadi and jamdani fabrics from their loom to luxury stages. This unprecedented installation brings into the stark spotlight our dwindling indigenous craft and craves out its rich possibilities in our consciousness.

Collection of lithographs from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s collection of works | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
Collection of lithographs from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s collection of works Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

A special mention deserves to be given to the collection of Raja Ravi Verma’s reprints and lithographs on display, highlighting the fact that he painted on canvases made of jute. Classics like Lady in Moon Light and Portrait of a Lady make you want to stand and soak it all in. And that’s the winning aspect of an exhibition like this one, whether it is designer Rajesh Pratap Singh’s installation on one of the landings, or poet Navkirat Sodhi’s experiential verse, or even the Mahatma’s quotes inscribed along the walkways and wall-scapes, the strong subtle messages of urgency and preservation make you believe and keep the faith in the intentions and effort of those visionaries who made our present day possible.

  • Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
    Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia
  • Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
    Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia
  • Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works | Exhibition | Santati | Mahatma Gandhi | STIRworld
    Gaurang Shah’s installation of 30 landmark paintings from artist Raja Ravi Varma’s works Image Credit: Ronitaa Italia

Santati is on at the NGMA, Mumbai, until November 15, 2019. Go see…and feel!

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About Author

Ronitaa Italia

Ronitaa Italia

A prolific writer and journalist with 20 years of experience, Ronitaa has helmed premier magazines - ELLE DECOR India, GoodHomes, Home & Design TRENDS. She is known for her engaging content, piquant ideas, and reportage of design trends.

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