The image of Mahatma Gandhi’s unfaltering steps, striding towards the sea coast near Dandi in Gujarat to protest against the British-imposed salt tax, inspired Delhi-based artist Shelly Jyoti’s new series of work, Salt: The Great March.

Currently on display at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, the exhibition draws inspiration from the Gandhian philosophy of swadharma (own duty) and sarvodaya (universal uplifting). “Salt is symbolic of Gandhi’s renunciatory spirit, of cultural and moral values as instruments to create better societies. I am investigating that art through sarvodaya concept," explains Jyoti.

Artist Shelly Jyoti
Artist Shelly Jyoti

It all started in 2010, when Jyoti read Mark Kurlansky’s book Salt: A World History. By then she had already been working with the azrakh artisans in Bhuj for over a year. “The whole idea is to preserve this dying art form and to make these artisans financially strong," she says. Traditional needlecraft techniques such as sujni and nakshi kantha have also been used.

“It was a difficult task to find the azrakh artisans and then to convince them to be a part of this series, as one piece took them one month to make, and they are used to making their traditional designs which fetch money quickly," she recalls.

The exhibition also features an installation, Integrating Khadi2013, which has been made using 30m of Khadi and is printed with Sanskrit calligraphy. The installation represents the Gandhian thought of promoting Khadi across villages for the economic independence of the then predominantly agrarian society.

Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, tolerance, peace and harmony is what the world needs most right now, says Jyoti. “These works are in response to rape, molestation and other such problems of our patriarchal and masculinity-driven society in the 21st century," she adds.

Salt: The Great March is on till 20 October, from 11am to 7pm, at Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts, New Delhi. For details, visit www.shellyjyoti.com.

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