Wednesday, February 10, 2010


By Suchita Mundhra

They should stand with their head held high and be felicitated for winning the battle of life.

This is what the subtext of Mansi Saraf’s public art installation at The Times of India Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, 2010 carried. She is not a regular artist and her installation comes as a part of her keen observation of the life around. Child Labour, is not a new problem and this is surely not the first time that an artist has tried to create awareness about this societal problem.

A multi layered installation that highlights not only the growing concerns about child labour but also the idea of how textiles are traditionally perceived .Mansi, a final year student of BFA Textile Designing in Sir. JJ College of Fine Arts wanted to make a small step towards giving textiles a different feel. Mansi says ‘that textiles are usually associated with opulence and are becoming more and more commercialised. We tend to be forgetting our roots. My aim was to adhere to the basics and obliterate ornamentation.’ The use of soiled ganjees, with medals pinned, looked paradoxical. Was it a mockery on the medals rewarded by the government or sarcasm to their plight and condition of the children? These are the manifold connotations that can be drawn out of the installation. The use of the ganjees as the object appears to be a forthright approach to the thought yet at another level it shows the bare minimum that these kids possess.

The flip side of the ganjees used three different thoughts all connected to childhood dreams and living. One of them had cartoon characters which are definitely not restricted to any age yet children are the ardent followers. The second ganjee had letters of the alphabet printed on them, to depict literacy and the need for education. These kids do have the desire to study but due to their limited means and resources, does not sustain. They need to run around to make a living for themselves and survival to them is more important than education. Because if they do not survive then how would learning A – Z be of any help. The third ganjee had a quilt which keeps a person warm. These kids who have been separated from their parents or do not get the affection from their family, yearn for warmth, maybe the artificial warmth that a quilt can provide. They yearn for the warmth that only a mother can give them. The artist has juxtaposed the existent with the non-existent. What the outer world sees are their soiled clothes but what lies within is hardly noticeable. The inner part of the ganjees is more vibrant and shows the missing shades in the life of these kids. The thing that really stands out is the shiny medals adorning the ganjees.

At different layers the installation juxtaposes the missing factors in their lives. The soiled shoes, tattered bags are all elements put together that give it coherence. The installation has a subtle appeal and puts the message across in a mild manner and it does not shout to make a statement. When asked Smriti, a second year student of Sophia College, Mumbai she had a different take and way looking at these public installations, ‘ I think most artists use such issues to make a mark and I think child labour is an over-used ‘subject’ now (she insisted on putting quotes as the cause has merely become a subject).’

It was a self exploration by the artist and the clarity of thought is worth mentioning. Such installations definitely give any artist to broaden the horizon and work collectively with the masses.

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