‘Kanu’s Gandhi’ photo exhibition in Bengaluru

42 pictures to be seen outside Sabarmati Ashram for the first time

September 30, 2016 03:25 am | Updated November 11, 2017 11:52 am IST - BENGALURU

: For the first time outside of the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, 42 rare pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, taken by his grand-nephew Kanu Gandhi, will be showcased in Bengaluru. The exhibition titled ‘Kanu’s Gandhi’ will be displayed at the National Gallery of Modern Art from October 1, ahead of Gandhi Jayanti. It is presented in association with Nazar Foundation, a non-profit trust for photographic arts, which released a book by the same name last year. The exhibition will also travel to Goa, Mumbai and Dhaka.

Kanu, the son of Mahatma Gandhi’s nephew Narandas and his wife Jamuna, lived at the Sabarmati Ashram from the time he was a toddler, and eventually worked for the ashram, where he developed a passion for photography. The B&W stills of the Mahatma giving a massage to a Sanskrit scholar suffering from leprosy, or the poignant shot of Kasturba on his lap during her last moments at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, bring out some rare moments of his life.

Unschooled, candid and lucid

Photographer and curator Prashant Panjiar has been on this journey since 1998, piecing together photographs, journals and other materials that are are part of the private collection of Kanu’s daughter Geetha Mehta, who lives in Rajkot. Books such as Bapu ke Saath , authored by Kanu and his wife Abha, helped Mr. Panjiar in curating the exhibition too. He said, “The straightforward angles are the simple narratives in each of Kanu Gandhi’s photos.” Despite the strict rules imposed by his revered subject (“no flash, no posing and no funds from the Ashram”, the Mahatma said), some of Kanu’s photos reflect his focus and proximity to the Mahatma, which no one else enjoyed. “His unschooled photos are convincingly candid and lucid,” explains Mr. Panjiar, appreciating some of the “quiet moments” that Kanu has captured.

“Kanu’s interactions with photographers pushed him to get obsessed with photography,” Mr. Panjiar added. Acharya Vinobha Bhave’s brother, Shivaji, while on a visit to Sevagram, was the first to encourage Kanu to record events. “Initially, Gandhi turned down Kanu for lack of funds, but later relented as the industrialist G.D. Birla helped Kanu get a Rolleiflex camera for Rs.100!” remarked Mr. Panjiar.

Credit overdue

“Though some of Kanu Gandhi’s images reproduced in books are well known, he was never credited for them. Nor were they acknowledged and brought over as a showcase for their historical and artistic importance,” says Mr. Darshan Kumar, Assistant Curator, NGMA Bengaluru.

“Following Nazar Foundation’s book, Kanu’s Gandhi , this travelling exhibition with scanned digital prints of the original vintage negatives and prints, gives a great, forgotten photographer his due credit,” added Mr. Kumar.

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