Inspired to make the world a better place to live, in 2014 Nilesh Makwana and Lene Makwana started the Borderless Gandhi Project. The aim of this initiative is to promote through artistic reflections Gandhiji’s life, work and legacy by holding a series of events and exhibitions. This year the organisation has opened the exhibition “Mahatma In Me” by artist Vibhor Sogani at Perth, where several of his sculptures in stainless steel have been installed. Using steel and iron to create 12 works for the exhibition, the artist says, it was a challenge for him as far as the medium was concerned. “It took me a while to absorb the intricacies and the translation thereof.”
Delhi-based Sogani is well known for “Sprouts”, India’s largest and most visible public art installations. Spread over six acres of greens surrounding the All India Institute of Medical Sciences “Sprouts” is a 40-feet high stainless steel installation.
In an interaction, Sogani talks about the Perth exhibition, what it signifies and relevance of Gandhiji in today’s world.
Tell us about the show “Mahatma In Me”.
‘Mahatma in Me’ is inspired from the life of Mahatma Gandhi. One quote by him ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’ triggered a thought for the series. We all want to see big changes in the world. Every great journey, though, has to begin with a single step. That step, we believe, needs to come from within us — the Gandhi in us. Every individual carries a bit of Mahatma in him, waiting to be discovered. ‘Mahatma in Me’ is my humble attempt towards that realisation. For example, artworks like ‘Harmony’, ‘The March To Freedom’, ‘A Step Towards Divine’ are inspired from Gandhiji’s teachings of peace, non-violence and cleanliness.
What attracted you to this theme?
Last year we were celebrating 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s homecoming – his return to India from South Africa. It was being celebrated at the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, a Government of India initiative. I was invited to create a series of installations which was to be displayed there at the Mahatma Mandir in Gujarat. This is what led to initiation of this series.
How do these work make one reflect on the Mahatma within all of us?
Subtle images of Mahatma Gandhi and some impressions of his thoughts are expressed here in reflective steel. Mirror finish stainless steel is a very interactive and reflective material. The idea here is for the audience to see their own reflection in the images of Mahatma, pause and possibly introspect…a moment of self-realisation and think about the responsibility we all carry to bring about the change, and see ‘the Mahatma within all of us’
How relevant are Gandhiji’s thoughts and actions in today’s world ridden with violence and strife?
His thoughts and teaching are more relevant than ever before, in my opinion. His message of peace, harmony, non-violence, cleanliness etc — all happen to be serious concerns world over. In my view Gandhiji was a conceptual man who thought differently about the problems facing not just India but humanity as such. For instance, he emphasised that cleanliness was next to godliness and the problem of hygiene is a global issue and not just limited to our country. Likewise, he used the concept of non-violence to handle the complex issue of India’s struggle for independence which again is very relevant in today’s world.
On reading about Gandhiji, I realised that he was much ahead of his times. Self-reliance, harmony, hygiene and cleanliness, etc play a major role in the growth of any nation and at micro level, every individual. His vision, his philosophy and teachings are timeless.
Even though as a individual Gandhiji is remembered but his values and teachings have not been followed in post-Independence India. He had not just charted the course for the freedom of the country but also on how it should evolve post-Independence.
The need of the hour is to deliberate Gandhiji in his true spirit.