Goan Angelo da Fonseca was perhaps the first Indian artist to portray Christ’s life in an indigenous setting. While Mahatma Gandhi resorted to satyagraha to protest against the British rule, Fonseca found his weapon of resistance in painting brown-skinned Madonnas from 1930s.
Fonseca was criticised for his portrayal of Christian subjects and was later expelled by the Portuguese colonial government from Goa. His interpretation of the Virgin Mary in Mother Mary Along With Jesus (1951) was much talked about as it showed her draped in a sari. A reproduction of that work is now on display in an exhibition titled “Sacred/Scared” at Latitude 28 gallery. Thirteen artists aim to interpret religion, self censorship and spirituality in a light manner through this exhibition.
The gallery was unable to loan the original work from the Xavier Centre of Historical Research, Goa. Says Bhavna Kakar, director of the gallery, “Given the times that the artist worked in, his deconstruction of the colonial imports in the visual sensibility that formed ‘sacred’ images make it political and powerful.”
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Ranging from paintings, photographs, video installations to sculptures and drawings, the exhibition has 43 works on display. Curator Nancy Adajania says, “The title ‘Sacred/Scared’ alludes to the fear that many of us, as liberal and secular artists, feel, while expressing our opinions in relation to questions of religion, spirituality and the public manifestations of the sacred. We live in an age of aggressive politicised religiosity, where threats of violence have forced artists to practice self-censorship.” Though there is not much artwork which depicts the self censorship, she writes: “If you were to type the word ‘sacred’, the computer often auto-corrects it to ‘scared’. Is this merely an accident or is it symptomatic of a deep anxiety of our times?”.
Artist Gargi Raina in her mixed media work titled Excavating the Mirror Neuron (Ayeneh-Kari) Day/Night has pasted tiny mirrors within geometrical patterns on paper to pay homage to ayeneh-kari, a reference to mirror work that decorates walls of mosques in Tehran.
Mumbai-based artist Prajakta Pallav has incorporated children’s drawings on paper as part of her work on display and has gone beyond the conventional exhibition format. Her drawings range from depicting a farmer reaping crops in his farm, to a woman cooking food in her hut. These were sourced from one of her workshops in the village of Bilwas, Maharashtra, where she asked her students to interpret poems of a late Marathi poet Bahinabai Chaudhari. “Even though she was illiterate, she compose her poems in Marathi verbally, which her son noted down on a piece of paper,” says Pallav.
The works are on display at Latitude 28, F 208, Lado Sarai, till March 5, between 11 AM and 7 PM