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the artist’s impression of india & me

The artwork on our website was specially created by Malvika Raj, a Madhubani artist whose work challenges the deeply entrenched casteism in many forms of this school of art. After being told that she could not practise the Tantric Madhubani artform simply because she was born into the Dalit community, Malvika has not only learnt and become an accomplished internationally renowned Madhubani artist. Her ground-breaking paintings draw on Babasaheb Ambedkar’s idea of India, breaking the artform free of its narrow confines of depicting only particular mythological narratives that privilege the savarna knowledge system as supreme.

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After hearing us talk about india & me, Malvika used her fine artistic skills to help us visualise our participatory discovery of India: a journey of unlearning the taken-for-granted about India; of appreciating the nuances of its fault-lines; and of searching for answers and ‘solutions’ in the vast but often overlooked ocean of Adivasi, Vimukt, Dalit and Bahujan knowledges that continue to thrive and grow despite continued attempts to erase them. We are grateful to Malvika for sharing her own journey of listening to our ideas and using her pencil and paintbrush to bring alive our vision, a few strokes at a time.

 “The image is anchored by the half-face and the tree emerging from within, both of which make up the essence of ‘me’ of india & me: a confluence of humanity and nature that is necessary for both to thrive. As I drew the face, I felt that ‘me’ was myself, as well as all the people in the group and other like-minded people around me and around us all, all of us who want that world which the india & me journey is heading towards. The dynamic expression on the face, somewhat happy, somewhat pensive, somewhat knowing and somewhat questioning, displays what this journey entails for all of us willing to enter this space. I used black and white stippling to show how the journey involves much learning and un-learning, much knowing and un-knowing, much realisation and also much un-realisation. ...

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As we continue down this tumultuous, non-linear journey, the ‘me’ becomes more expansive and the fuzziness of the stippling gives way to clear lines and bright colours. Indeed the whole image then becomes ‘me’ and india & me simultaneously, encompassing both our past and our present with the possibility of a more inclusive future.” (Malvika Raj in conversation with the india & me working group).

But it is up to us to see the unseen in each detailed part of the image: all of which depict scenes of the everyday, as experienced by those gone before us and those around us and ourselves today. What’s key here is that what makes India a rich and beautiful region of the world is its ordinary people’s past and present. We all need to participate in turning that most precious wheel of time, and not entrust this task to a powerful few, as it meanders through paths not determined by borders.

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