Freedom : What it means to me
"Amar mukti aloey aloey ei akasey
Amar mukti dhulaye dhulaye ghasey ghasey.
Amar mukti sarbajaner moneyr majhey
Dukshabipad-tuchchha-kara kathin kajey."
- Rabindranath Tagore.
(My freedom is in the light of the lit sky
My freedom is in the dust of soil, among grasses.
My freedom is in the minds of multitudes
making light of danger to do hard deeds.-tr.)
Over a-century-and-a-half of culture-contact with the West, brought into process by an appropriatory colonial economy, paternalistically imposed rule of law and legal system reluctantly regulating social arrangements notwithstanding, economic underdevelopment, built-in authoritarian governance, legal indifference to social change and above everything denial of right of self-determination and initiative to initiate dynamism in social-economy remained hallmarks of colonial domination over India till the 15th August 1947. But the hegemonic hold over Indian mentality had a deeper and more lingering effect. That having been the existential situation, from little over a century before independence the consciousness and action to negate the domination and concomitant hegemony on mentality motivated the process of freedom struggle, carried on through trials and tribulations, confusion and determination. The cardinal agenda of freedom from colonial domination required praxiological negotiation of vital parameters like: the shape and size of the land for which freedom and unified self-rule was demanded, who were 'we the people', did 'we' include all those of us who thought to belong to this land, did we exclude a 'minority' as not 'propers' of the land. And then there were the questions like what should we do to ourselves by becoming free and how would we make all of 'us' feel reasonably free in our pursuit of happiness within a framework of justice. These sets of parameters and questions were so vitally existential to the people under colonial domination-hegemony, that no significant consciously undertaken action, including cultural projects, could be pursued without negotiating the facts of colonial hegemony and liberation from it. All projects of changing the human situation in India, in the colonial and the post-colonial eras, have had to negotiate with the overarching existential reality of colonialism and its effects. In the fields of cultural activity, the cardinal pull-and-push factors of tradition and modernity, indigeneity and universality etc. etc. have had their geneses in colonial hegemony. The concepts and contents of freedom vis-a-vis colonial domination/hegemony, therefore, made our modernity different from the Modernism of the post-industrial revolution bourgeois democratic West, of the alienated individual.
On the completion of the sixtieth year of Indian independence, Aakriti Art Gallery of Kolkata nursed a desire to see to what extent a desire for freedom and feeling of denial of freedom still motivate the painters and sculptors of the two generations of artists, born since 15th August 1947. There has also been an interest in finding how the artists of these two generations deal with the concept of freedom, do their conceptualisation include remembrances of the anti-colonial freedom struggle and/or include freedom from authoritarian structures of injustice? This desire has fructified into the present exhibition titled, Freedom: What it Means to Me. The title gives priority to individual concept as the prime motivating factor in present day art, irrespective of whether such a concept is right or wrong. The curator of the exhibition, however, would like to reserve his observation about whether the participating artists have been able to communicate their concern with the concept or not. It is for the viewers to judge. The gallery on its part is happy for being able to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of independence.
- Pranabranjan Ray