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Don’t They Love Their India?

Mumbai-based artist Tejal Shah’s video work based on Godhra riots has been removed from display in China

Mumbai-based artist Tejal Shah’s video work based on Godhra riots has been removed from display in China

It is a video work that has travelled from London to Lyon,Oslo to Rome. Till earlier this week,artist Tejal Shah’s I Love My India occupied a central place at Beijing’s Ullens Center of Contemporary Art (UCCA),as part of a travelling exhibition. Now,upon the request of India’s Ministry of External Affairs,the organisers have been asked to remove it. The video shows people talking about the 2002 Godhra riots,a year after the incident took place in Gujarat. “It’s terrible what they have done and I’m not comfortable with the feeling that the Indian government is becoming censorship-prone to art. It’s strange and I’m surprised. I can’t understand why the Indian government should do this… The work is not offensive,it is playful and has people remembering something that has happened in the past. It’s not a national show,it’s an exhibition at a private gallery,“ says Ravi Agarwal,another Indian artist participating in the same group show.

Known for her socio-political works,Mumbai-based Shah’s single-channel video was part of the much acclaimed exhibition “Indian Highway” that has travelled the world since it opened at Serpentine Gallery in London in 2008. Shot in a theme park,it raises questions on democracy in India and has people talking about atrocities against Muslims in Gujarat during the riots. While one of the people interviewed in the video is shown saying,“Take a gun and kill. That is the trend. There is no democracy left”,another terms Indian political system as “third class”. Talking about the video on her website,Shah notes,“The responses are sometimes hilarious and often apathetic,culminating in a sense of loss,of a perceived nationhood and a love for home.”

The title,I Love My India,comes from the text on the balloon target-shooting stall that has the words written on the board. “The text acts as a catalyst and the board as an interface screen within the visual space,through which the concepts of religion,national identity,self and community are mitigated,” notes Shah.

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Renu Modi,owner of Gallery Espace,who exhibited Shah’s works in Delhi in 2010 states,“I can’t comment on the work because I haven’t seen it,but how come the Indian government has woken up so late,after the show has travelled to so many places?” The artist herself was not available for comment.

First published on: 26-07-2012 at 09:46:20 pm
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