In December last year, the farmers protesting at New Delhi’s borders decided to call off their year-long protest against the Centre’s three contentious farm laws which have now been repealed.
Now, to cement these protests in history, several journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and visual artists across India have come together to launch the Farmers’ Protest NFT Collection to showcase their on-ground work during the protests.
“The farmers’ protest has to be the largest and arguably one of the longest civil disobedience protests that contemporary India has seen, and it ended with a victory for the farmers. This undeniable fact must remain unsullied by politicians for their personal gain,” curator Archit Malhotra told indianexpress.com.
Curator Terence-Hari Fernandes added that the protest was a fight for democracy. “It was a moment in history that should be and needs to be remembered in its rightful context. The 21st century and the proliferation of the internet are rife with misinformation and lies. Art, when coupled with our fight for freedom, has the power to take messaging and allow it to live on in the minds of the people for generations,” he said, on the idea behind the collection.
Several contributors including journalist Saba Naqvi, filmmaker Vidhaat Raman and photographer Akshay Bhoan have made their on-ground works during the protests available in the collection.
“These photos are close to my heart because I was capturing a historic movement,” Naqvi said. “I covered the farmers’ protest diligently visiting all the three sites on Delhi’s border. I spent the last day of 2020 or New Year’s Eve at the Singhu border.”
She told indianexpress.com that the NFT collection captures some moments of “one of the largest and greatest people’s protests of recent times”.
For Bhoan, it was an “act of solidarity with the farmers”. “Inspired by the determination and resilience of the farmers, my work pays homage to the protests we have witnessed in line with imagining a future of the community, free of boundaries and exploitation.”
Raman, who was intimately involved in the life of the farmers at the borders, wanted to document this personally transformative experience. “I documented all these images during another assignment involving the farmer’s protest over the course of a year. I feel like I have a vast collection of endearing moments from the protest, things that weren’t shown in the mainstream coverage of the protest. The monolithic picture that regular news painted of the protest was far removed from the relatable and human struggle that the farmers faced every day – which I was exposed to,” he told indianexpress.com, on his decision to contribute his works to the collection.
The curators further apprised that the entire collection will be made available in a one-of-a-kind ‘Metaverse Museum’, situated in a digital field, once all the pieces are sold out. It is meant for the general public to view the NFTs and understand the context of the historical event.
“The metaverse museum will be a farm-field that you can digitally walk around and see our coverage of the ground reality of the protest. Essentially anyone with an internet connection and a laptop or phone will be able to visit it for free. We plan on doing physical exhibitions as well in the future where the same digital assets can be projected,” Malhotra explained.
Stepping away from exhibiting the collection in a conventional manner, the curators decided to employ the use of blockchain technology because of its “immutability”. “The immutability of the blockchain helps keep this alive – neither I nor a contributor nor the government can delete this once the media is minted as an NFT. This was a crucial point in keeping this history of the farmers’ protest intact,” he added.
Elaborating further, Fernandes said, “Blockchain technology is also decentralised and as such, the validity and existence of the Collection, in its entirety, is always in the public record.”
According to the contributors, art, literature and activism are significant mediums to capture historic struggles. “Throughout history, any intense peoples’ movement has sparked a treasure of inspired work – further inspiring later generations to follow righteous paths. The more inspiration there is around, the stronger the resolution shall be for the next generations,” Raman said.
Naqvi believes that this is how “we create new motifs, cultural norms and narratives”.
Disclaimer: Lekh-Haq has clarified that the Atam Pargas Welfare Society has nothing to do with them or the Farmers’ Protest NFT as earlier communicated. The references have been removed.