Many artists create for the pleasure of creation, while others choose to use their artistic voice to champion causes relegated to the fringes of consciousness. There’s no doubt that artist Rajyashri Goody belongs to the latter, having bagged the award for ‘Exhibition of the Year – Gallery’ for her poignant exhibit titled ‘Is the Water Chavdar’, showcased at Galleryske, co-winner of the award.
“This was my largest body of work to date, and it took many years to develop and produce. I worked with artists and technical experts from India and the Netherlands, particularly Thomas Louis and Tenzing Dakpa in Goa and Pieter Verweij in Amsterdam. Receiving this award is a recognition of these networks of support and community in the process of art making,” says the artist, speaking from Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in the Dutch capital, where she’s currently pursuing an intensive two-year art residency.
The exhibition centres on the Mahad Satyagraha of 1927, when Dr. Ambedkar marched with over 10,000 people to drink water from the Chavdar tank. His act created ripples throughout the country, which echoed years later in Goody’s childhood.
She grew up listening to this story and visiting Mahad, and it became her life’s wish to commemorate the revolutionary’s simple yet powerful gesture, as a reminder of the sacrifices of our ancestors for the hope of a better tomorrow.
Goody was ably supported in her vision by Sunitha Kumar Emmart, Director of Galleryske, which has branches in Bengaluru and Delhi. “The exhibition touched upon the themes of equality, liberty and human dignity, among other things. It was our gesture to encourage open discourse and dialogue, and I believe we achieved that in an overwhelmingly positive way,” shares Emmart, who collected the award at the event. “The comments people sent us after viewing the show were moving. Galleries are the spaces between the studio and the audience, so the feedback we got was reassuring and encouraging.”
Goody and Galleryske’s vision aptly combined for the success of ‘Is the Water Chavdar’. As a multidisciplinary artist, Goody practices ceramics, printmaking, installation art as well as works that encompass body, voice, and performance. She explains: “I’m particularly interested in developing ways to highlight gestures of the body that hold agency and resistance — it could be as simple as the act of walking.”
Galleryske, on the other hand, is dedicated to presenting art grounded in the contemporary Indian experience. In the two decades since it opened, it’s worked with a small group of artists, each of whose distinct practice draws deeply upon the emotional, psychological and natural terrain of their regions.
“We aim to develop and support work that reflects upon and engages with the astonishingly rich set of experiences that constitute the current Indian moment,” says Emmart.
Drawing our conversation to a close, Goody says, “Our country is filled with millions of incredible artists, and there aren’t enough opportunities for everybody. So it’s reassuring that HELLO! has built this platform for the arts. I hope it can lead to more exciting opportunities in the future for the growing art community. Not just in Delhi, but across the subcontinent.”
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the March 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!