22 works by eight artists depict opposition to the diversion project

Even as a woman attempts to drink water from the pot, a man – representing the government – is seen turning her neck back; while a man attempts to turn on a rusty tap, a neighbour is heard saying: “There is no point in turning on the tap. The government is busy turning rivers.” If the message hasn’t come through yet, the undressing of Nethravati, personified as a woman, by the government – a la Draupadi in Mahabharath – while five persons (people of the district) stand idle, is bound to deliver a caustic punch.

After months of protests, speeches, and letter-writing, the agitation against the proposed Nethravati diversion project (or the Yettinahole floodwater diversion scheme) had turned to cartoons and caricatures to drive home the message.

Inaugurated at Orchid Art Gallery on Monday, a total of 22 tongue-in-cheek, and often acerbic, cartoons depict the opposition to the project by eight regional artists.

While a few held moral lessons on the link between deforestation and drying up of water sources, others were direct and scathing: take for instance, a caricature of Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment B. Ramanath Rai holding an uprooted tree, while urging the public to save the environment.

Apart from lampooning politicians, citizens of the district are also targeted for their apathy.

“This exhibition is the last resort of activists,” said Niranjan Rai, president of the Nethravati River Diversion Opposition Committee, Uppinangadi, during the inauguration. He lamented that while politicians, across parties, were united in their resolve to implement the project; the citizens of the coastal district were not one in their opposition. “Politicians are aware of this disunity among the people, and are taking advantage of it,” he said.

Artist Dinesh Holla said the exhibition will have a showing in Puttur, while also featuring prominently in the Kalamela to be held at Kadri Park on December 14 and 15. “More than listening to lectures, people will understand the gravity of the project through these cartoons. Hopefully, the punch in them will create awareness,” he said.

Harini, Satish Acharya, John Chandran, Jeevan, Amruth Vittal, Dinesh Kukkujadka, Yathi Siddakatte, and Uday Vittal contributed to the exhibition. The exhibition will be open till December 4 at the Orchid Art Gallery, Balmatta.

More In: Mangaluru