- Padma Jayaraj
July 20, 2020
Stunning in its contradiction, Black Rainbow is the Kerala chapter of White Rose Movement, a resistance pressure group that began way back in Nazi Germany. Initiated by Satyapal Aravind, the former Chair Person of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, the online Art Exhibition of paintings, sculpture, and photography by a group of artists resonate with the ongoing worldwide protest, 'Black lives matter.'
M.A.Baby, former Cultural Minister of Kerala, inaugurated 'Black Rainbow' honouring the memory of George Floyd who was brutally killed by a white policeman that points to racial prejudice in civilized America. The four eminent speakers of Kerala noted for their roles in cultural activism, introduced the history of the birth of White Rose and how it became a resistance movement worldwide and its implications in the socio-political realities of Indian context. The speakers traced the story of how a group of five in Munich University, Germany, led by siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl spearheaded an underground campaign by distributing leaflets and drawing graffiti. Although the group of five intellectuals were killed by the Gestapo, their message rose to create a movement, wide reaching especially by artists and youth.
The online exhibition that began on 5th July 2020 showcases 80 pieces from artists in Kerala. They are thematically linked. The iconic sculpture, 'The king and the fallen soldier' of the chessboard, by Sunny Paul is powerful with its political undertone. In the Indian context, the game of chess inaugurates power game steeped in deception in the context of the Mahabharata. In the international context, the white piece indicates the power vested in the white race while the fallen black soldier point to the exploitation of the black race in the so called modern democratic state of the first world.
In tune with the theme, 'The exploitation of the poor', most of the pieces highlight the marginalised loser all over the world. Some indicate unequivocally the plight of the black while others imply similar social and political constraint all over the globe. Some of the artists have taken the theme of exploitation of environment, forest dwellers, fish in the pond and beings in animal farm. 'Approved' by Tholil Suresh is a telling example of a pig fattened on purpose just to be killed for human consumption.
The marginalised in the context of Indian situation runs as a supplementary theme questioning the politics of the ruling class since our independence. The photograph of an old man sleeping out on the seashore near a boat juxtaposed with the girl child sleeping in a basket among shadows of an unseen tree by Somakumaran Achuthan, indicate the plight of the homeless for generations in independent India, an ironic comment.
Many photographs reveal the plight of women, alone, as if lost or working late into night or home almost a prison. The angry burning eye of Martin O.C symbolise the eye of the youth for whom the ruling dispensation is unacceptable.
The painting of Sindhu Divakaran recasts the time honoured symbol of justice, in multiple layers of irony. Themis, the Greek goddess of justice in classical Greece, blind-folded with the scale of justice in one hand and sword in the other, is reinvented to suit justice in modern democratic America. An immature girl clad in the star-spangled American flag, is the symbol of American justice, blind, holding the scale of justice in one hand while the drawn dagger killing a black man trampled under her feet is loud enough to haunt the conscience of viewers.
The painting of Biji Bhaskar, of a blue lake of flowing waters and floating clouds filled with white birds, evokes the mythical white swans of the Himalayan terrain. But here, they are taking to flight, frightened by a sword that rises from its depth. The lyrical charm is offset by an implied horror. The white birds and their flight en masse has a spiritual dimension, as if all that is heavenly disappears from the terror unleashed on earth.
An online show is problematic since the niceties of its aesthetic dimension cannot be absorbed. Satyapal's unique figures, mocking like a cartoon is exceptional even in this context. No wonder the Rainbow is black with its radiating nucleus.
Follow the link facebook.com/2020whiterose to view the ongoing exhibition.
Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the arts and a regular contributor to narthaki.com.