February 17, 2015 3:26:32 am
Nagpur-based artist Shweta Bhattad has been exploring the problem of open defecation for close to two years in Paradsinga village in Madhya Pradesh. “A few months ago, a friend asked me to come along with her at 4 am; that’s when most people go to defecate, under the cover of darkness. I went along and saw a woman walking ahead with a large pig following her. I realised he was waiting for his meal, and while the woman was still squatting, he tried to bite her,” says Bhattad.
With her latest solo at Gallery Latitude 28, Bhattad has taken up the mantle to bring to light a less-talked about issue — open defecation in rural India. Called Kabhi Namak Tumhe Kam Laga Kabhi… Kabhi Namak Tumhe Zada Laga Kabhi…, the exhibition comprises Bhattad’s steel installations, videos and photographs. The victims of pig bites are usually children, menstruating women and old people. It is some of these women whom we see in her photographs.
“I am the daughter of a farmer. I know how things are when you have five people in the house, and just one chappati to share among all of them. One can’t even talk about dignity when you have to defecate in the open,” says the artiste.
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This isn’t Bhattad’s first brush with a hard-hitting project. In 2012, in her hometown Nagpur, Bhattad lay in a coffin which was gradually filled with food waste and rice water, while the audience was handed empty thermocol plates. Titled Three Course Meal and a Dessert of Vomit, the performance highlighted the ironic coexistence of starvation and extravagant food wastage in India.
A year later, dressed in a white sari and a golden mukut, Bhattad was walking along a beach in Taitung, Taiwan. It wasn’t the sari over which she wore a blood-red chastity belt that grabbed eyeballs. It was the fact that she had two extra limbs sprouting out from her back, one holding the Indian tricolour, the other a pink lotus. Her act, Bharat Mata in Taiwan, was part of her art residency there. “My performance did get the audiences’ attention. But what really surprised them was that I was afraid of going out at night,” says the 30-year-old.
In her iron and eye glass installations in the solo exhibition in the city, the swine takes various forms. In one work, there are pigs walking in a circle, and in another work appears as a portrait welded in iron. “I can’t wait for grants for making toilets so I have decided to raise the funds myself,” says the alumnus of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda.
The show is on at Gallery Latitude 28, Lado Sarai, till February 27.
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