We are reminded of five years ago when on a balmy evening, over dinner in a quiet village house in Parra, Goa, a discussion about Gandhi and Dandi March resulted in a project Salt Prints an epic retracing of Dandi march. Today in the same situation and at the same table, we - Madhavan, Enit & Srinivas, chattering about work, society, and all the other topics under the sun and given the plethora of current issues, our conversation naturally drifted to elections and the recent political scenario in the Nation. The morning came with an idea emerging from entire night's talks, debate, and consensus on the 17th Lok Sabha election, resulting in a project titled PORTRAIT OF A NATION.
The Great Indian elections are here, the world’s biggest festival of democracy is in full swing. It is a festival of performance, visually stunning feast of light, color, and technology, enthusiastic and exuberant noise with vibrant energy. The festival of democracy is celebrated across the nation with full fun fair, the action-packed appeal of a T20, high pitch drama and madness, tensions, unexpected twists and uncertainty stretching over several days. The statistics are staggering and overwhelm the imagination: 900 million Indians in a country of 1.3 billion people are eligible to vote in the 17th Lok Sabha elections. On May 23, 2019, at the end of a winding process stretching over 43 days and across seven phases spread across 29 states and seven Union territories, 900 million eligible voters of India will choose the next government.
In a country of India’s size, diversity is reflected in terms of language, region, religion, color, culture, caste, and tribes. Political parties and electoral candidates canvassing for the elections across the country assure the population of upholding democracy and integrity of the Nation by accelerating inclusive and sustainable economic growth through reforms, better governance, greater socio-economic equity, bolstered efforts at farmers poverty alleviation, and national security, etc... It is too good to be true.
The reality on the ground is something else, policies like "divide and rule" which were effectively and efficiently used by British to maintain imperial rule over the Indian subcontinent, still continues to catch the imagination of the political parties and politicians. This 17th Lok Sabha election enormously amplified the divide and differences among the citizens of the country. The Nation is now extremely divided on language, region, religion, culture, caste, and tribes. The election fueled divide is challenging the multicultural, pluralistic social fabric of our societies. Polarization of society threatens the social cooperation that existed for thousands of years.
As an artist collective, we decided to respond to these unprecedented events, by adopting a Gandhian strategy in connecting the people irrespective of all differences. To celebrate and reflect upon the our democratic values by artistically and collaboratively creating a series of artworks with the people, which will echo the multicultural, pluralistic, yet integrated society of this great Nation.