The Gram Art Project was in the news last year after it created the portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the field by way of asking him to “Grow in India”. The collective has been involved in engaging with farmers and presenting issues of the rural and agrarian economy using art in the village Paradsinga, near Nagpur. Its volunteers and artists, mostly natives of the village, were in Delhi to present and talk about their work.
“Last year, artists from across India discussed contemporary problems of farming with the farmers of the village at the Gram Dhara Chakra Utsav, organised by volunteers, after which seven images for land art were drawn out and grown on the fields,” said Shweta Bhattad, who initiated the project. One of the images was grown by Ganesh Dhoke. He made a simple representation of an Indian map with a farmer and his bull inside. “India is primarily dependent on agriculture and, without it, there will be no food. People need to understand that farmers are leaving the profession and youngsters are not joining it. This message is for the government, too,” he said. He is the only youngster in his village to be a full-time farmer.
Mumbai-based Kalyani Uday created a land art of two adjacent pyramids, one of them in reverse. The work included a leafy legume and the slogan “Kisan Ekta Zaruri Hai”. “There are many issues being faced by the community, yet they have not come together as one. They are at the bottom of the pyramid, so we wanted to show that the reverse of the equation is possible,” said Tanmay Joshi, a volunteer. Satyabhama Manjhi, an artist from Odisha, created a small land art in the local village school with the students. “Many people used to urinate near that school wall, so we decided to grow a toilet seat with plants, and the practice stopped,” said Adarsh Dhoke, a volunteer. Though his parents are into farming, he never wanted to join the profession. During the interaction with school children, he received the same response from them. “Nobody wants to pursue farming but, after I spoke to them, they started thinking about it,” he said.
Gram Art Project also promotes chemical-free farming and use of native seeds in Paradsinga. Its volunteers are involved in activities, such as building machans and providing daily weather forecast. Ganesh Dhoke reached out to other like-minded people and they built a road that connects 50 fields, which made locomotion in monsoon easier. Similarly, Vednath Lohi recognised that there was no place for children to play. With the help of the artists, they converted a land, called Gothan, used for defecation and gambling, into a playground for children and embellished it with sustainable sculptural play structures.
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