Speaking from the marginThe-Lit: Exclusion Within features artwork by five artists and has been organised in conjunction with the Darnal Award for Social Justice
Nexus is currently hosting a month-long exhibition that commenced on August 23 and has been envisioned from a social justice perspective. The exhibit, titled The-Lit: Exclusion Within, features five artists from the marginalised, dalit communities in the country and is organised in conjunction with the Darnal Award for Social Justice.
Manish Harijan’s Auspicious Suspicious gives a twist to the vanitas theme with an instalation of 14 skulls fashioned from resin and lit individually from within. Filled with a variety of edible grains, the skulls apparently free the decayed human body’s association with mere death and morbidity as espoused in Western cultures, and introduce an element of revitalisation and biological regeneration. Harijan has explicitly stated that he created a combination of the two to ‘balance the positive and negative powers in society, namely faith and superstition.’ The number 14, the number of skulls on display, plays on the kriya performed in memory of the dead. The accompanying acrylic on canvas piece, called Auspicious Suspicious again, addresses a similar concern through images of positive hand gestures and mudras, vibrant flowers, buzzing insects and the symbol of resurrection—butterflies in this case—all exploding from a skull. Manish’s art addresses commodification and the culture of the spectacle more than he lets on; the glittering contours of his imagery and perfected execution elides upon the raw face of reality and forces us to encounter and acknowledge globalisation’s hollow insides.
Ishan Pariyar encounters the same reality from a position approaching the anthropocene’s, one which calls for an acute awareness of the human race’s inevitable extinction through acts of rampant greed and selfishness. Pariyar says in his statement, “Nowadays every term, every minute and every second is surrounded by bitter experiences. I have chosen bitter gourd as a motif and symbolic representation for my idea. Its structure and colour inspired me to paint in a theme of ‘titosatya’ or ‘bitter reality’. It is a Nepali saying that reflects the bitterness, sense of unpleasantness and sourness of life and I think this idea somehow connects with the awkward nature of society.” His paintings try and depict the disastrous effects of climate change on one hand, and humanity’s downward spiral of ethical bankruptcy.
Aruna Hingman, Pramila Pariyar BK and Poonam Kumari Das are the three other artists, whose works are on show. Their paintings traverse a diverse trajectory. Poonam’s fusion of mithila and madhuvani styles has resulted in an interesting rendition of The Gita scene in The Mahabharata. Pramila and Aruna mostly concentrate in conveying a gendered experience of contemporary times. Compared to her landscapes, Aruna’s snapshot take of a woman tuktuk driver carrying a baby on her back shows promise. Poonam’s work is grounded on showcasing moments from what it is to walk a ‘woman’s’ path, be it in the comparatively freer state of childhood, or later hemmed in by society.
The show was inaugurated by Darnal Award recipient Raksha Ram Chamar and featured remarks from notable social justice experts like Larry Diamond, Sukhadeo Thorat and Carl Gersham. An uneven show no doubt, with its sparks of brilliance and flickers of future promise, but a very important one if one takes into account the position of social justice activism it springs from. Looking forward to more!
Dasgupta is an artist and writer based in Kathmandu.