Colours of the Soil

Colours of the Soil

Akshay Rathore juxtapose art with issues concerning rural India

akshay rathore
An image from the “Food in Hand” series.

The wrinkles on his face have been sketched with red — perhaps the colour of his labour. A Kachhi farmer from Vidisha, Tikaram is a 70-year-old who works alone on a two-acre land. He is yet to adopt the genetically modified seeds and mourns the death of farmers like him. Akshay Rathore juxtaposes his portrait with a chart of genetically modified foods, showing its outreach. “There is no control of a farmer over seeds, diversity and fertility, more so with the advent of new innovative trends, genetically modified seeds and the entire concept of scientific control over life. Tikaram is one of those rare farmers who work on the fertility of the land; it’s a highly sustainable way of farming,” says the Paris-based artist.

In the last few years, Rathore has travelled the world, from Meghalaya, Assam and Chhattisgarh to farms in the US, Switzerland and France, documenting the challenges faced by the farmers. Through his work, the 36-year-old graduate from MS University, Baroda, hopes to delve into the “hidden angst” in rural India, its “unabashed celebration of masculinity” and “commercialisation and its impact”. Tikaram is the protagonist at the center of his work titled Obituary that is a part of the exhibition “Impotent Rage” at Gallery Espace in Delhi.

“Food in Hand” is a series of photographs of scooping out food grains, taken at local mandis and regional haats and weekly markets in rural India — at the banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati, Chlipi in Chhattisgarh and Vidisha. Bull and Bullocks brings together two seeming polars, the bull and space satellites. At one level, the work compares the masculine bull as a symbol of emasculation and power with the domesticated bullock. An old photograph of an Indian satellite being brought to the launch pad on a bullock cart connects the space age with the primitive.

Born into a zamindar’s family in Vidisha, Rathore has engaged with issues of the soil before. In 2012, the recipient of Khoj Negotiating Routes Grant initiated a rural awareness campaign about organic farming in Madhya Pradesh.

The exhibition at Gallery Espace is on till April 20