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Posted at: Feb 22, 2019, 8:24 AM; last updated: Feb 22, 2019, 8:24 AM (IST)

Farming creativity

An exhibition by Thukral & Tagra focuses on farmers’ suicide and raises pertinent existential questions

Manpriya Singh

It’s doesn’t take more than a few gentle taps on your touch device to order food from Zomato.  But how many of us have spared a thought for the people directly behind all that food?  

For artist duo Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra, the journey of asking pertinent existential questions to do with farmers’ plight actually started with that sort of query.  “We travelled to Baru Sahib and the hinterland of Punjab, and found the state of affairs too miserable to be able to do justice to them on our canvas. Suicides for Rs 50,000 and a farmer not being able to repay the loan of Rs 80,000! Somebody else with no collateral to secure a loan,” Jiten Thukral shares the background with the audience, before he, along with Sumir Tagra, allow a peep into their art works and exhibition Farmer Is A Wrestler, courtesy Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi. 

The exhibition, one-of-its-kind, rightfully puts the focus on the vicious circle engulfing the farming community. “They have always woven art around current social issues; be it reflecting the migrant community of Punjabis and some of the issues to do with migration or agrarian crisis,” chips in Diwan Manna, Chairman, Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi. 

Two’s company

Both artists, as natives of Punjab, also delve into their own personal histories and memories to address the socio-cultural changes most visible in their home state. A chance meeting in 2001 is what led to the artist duo being together.  Since then the duo has been seeing and commenting on issues as an artistic agency. Each template of the presentation comes with a tough question and one with no easy answers.  Are agricultural policies to be blamed? Is climate to be blamed?  What if there was no water one day? What if…what if… As many as 250 questions raise their head.

Potent collection

As for the works, the wrestler is a metaphor for a farmer, who wrestles everything, right from the climate to the policies to the government. The canvases and sculptures collectively draw attention to the farmers’ crisis with one canvas featuring a question mark, a multiplication and a division sign, against the backdrop of black and white sketch focusing on the equation. 

There are drawings inspired by Swaminathan Commission Report, a work titled Distress Mathematics, Distress Equation.  Each canvas has been a challenge; an effort to come up with a visual vocabulary that would address and at the same time do justice to the serious issues concerning our farmers and farms.  

(On till March 5 at Punjab Kala Bhawan—16, Chandigarh)

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