Artists and the spirit of FREEDOM
TRUE LIBERTY To celebrate Independence Day, here’s some wisdom from India’s great artists for our readers
When I asked five well- established Indian artists to talk to young Indians about what freedom really means, they wondered if today’s generation needs advice as it is well-equipped to handle S H RAZA
Syed Haider Raza is one of India’s most compelling and sought -after modernists. Creator of the iconic bindi, he still paints at 94.
In 1947 India won freedom but tragically it was partitioned. Almost all members of my family left for the newly created Pakistan, I did not. I was born in India, grew up here and I had seen Mahatma Gandhi in Mandla. India was and is my country and I could not dream of leaving it. Though later I lived in France for 60 years, I retained my citizenship of India. I now live in Delhi for the last four years or so. Every week I visit a church on Sunday, a temple and a masjid. This for me is India: not only the idea but the reality.
India is also the name of creativity and imagination. It has not only a very rich tradition of arts and literature, but also an incredible plurality of visions, styles and idioms, insights and anxieties. I feel the plurality of India is unique and its civilizationality quite unprecedented.
The youth of this great civilizational enterprise of India are the heirs of this huge pluralistic repertoire of India. Firstly, they must understand and appreciate it. It is a complex legacy. We have been modern on our own terms. The youth should not simplify or over- any emergency armed as it is with the very best and the latest in technology (internet, television, mobile phone etc)... But given their experience and talent, who wouldn’t mind but a few words of wisdom by greats such as SH Raza, Baiju Parthan, Nilofer Suleman, Milburn Cherian and Jayasri Burman. look the enormous complexity. There are different, even contrary, ways of looking at and exploring the human condition, ideas, arts and poetry etc. This has to be nurtured, sustained, celebrated. We are a plural people, not merely racially, socially etc but also civilizationally. We speak many languages and dialects. We practice many different religions. We write, explore, celebrate the human condition in so many diverse ways. This amazing plurality is the core of the civilizational enterprise of India over millenia. The youth today should first get themselves to understand, appreciate and explore it. Then they should in their own diverse ways celebrate, nurture and sustain it.
The youth must remember that nothing comes easy. We, the artists, had to struggle a lot when we were young. What matters ultimately is the tenacity of effort, the depth of creative imagination and the relevance of vision. Unlike us, who struggled when India was not free, they have both freedom and a democratic system. They should bring an openness to their creativity, a freedom their craft and tenacity to their aesthetics. The young should create art full of complexity and anxieties, which is rooted but open minded. It should resonate what happened before. Rooted in memory it should address the reality of our times. BAIJU PARTHAN
Baiju Parthan is one of India’s foremost young multimedia moder nists and inter nationally famous as the new face of modern Indian painters.
Freedom is something that is palpable yet intangible. Something that we take for granted in our democratic socio-political setup.
The real value of freedom can be experienced only when it is taken away or when it is denied and all of a sudden it becomes tangible in its absence. At a personal level I had a first-hand experience of this situation during the Indian emergency of the ’70s while I was a college student in Kerala.
The Indian Emergency was declared on June 25, 1975 - for a 21-month period, when the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, on the advice of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, suspending elections and civil liberties and bestowing on her the power to rule by decree. In one stroke all the fundamental rights and legal rights of the individual citizens protected by the Constitution were suspended.
It was unlike anything we the post-independence generation had experienced. Along with that came the oppressive feeling that walls have ears. NILOFER SULEMAN depict a visionAn artistof India known that for elicitsher ability humour too and a sense of nostalgia. desire is to see that As we an move Indian, towardsmy greatest integt - t- rity, courage and sensitivity. I wish that we have more evolved leaders who are better visionaries. I wish...That we move towardss gender equality. That we are more sensitive
ee. . towards people’s personal choices in life.
That we care about the the animals andd trees that we share our land with. That we
eee have better civic sense and are more sensitive
eee e and socially aware. And that we have more tolerance towards all faiths. As an individual, , freedom is one of my core values. In my case, , I come from a family with three generation of
ff rebels and the free spirit is what my children
n have inherited from me. We need to teach our
r youngsters that it is important to embrace e freedom and it is equally important to respect the sense of responsibility that comes with it.