Babasaheb’s life; dissident cartoons from China; Phule animated; an art–poetry fusion
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This history like no other asks you to consider what you are laughing at.
In 2012, the inclusion of a 1949 cartoon by Shankar showing Jawaharlal Nehru whipping a snail-borne B.R. Ambedkar in a school textbook, evoked dalit protest, and a savarna counter on the grounds of artistic freedom. Scholar and cartoonist Unnamati Syama Sundar then undertook an archival survey of cartoons on Ambedkar in the English language press. The result, a collection of over a hundred cartoons from India’s leading publications, drawn by Shankar, Enver Ahmed and R.K. Laxman, among others, lays bare the perverse and thoughtless hostility Ambedkar often contended with. The incisional commentary woven around each cartoon offers a veritable biography of a man historically wronged.
In 1873, Jotirao Govindrao Phule wrote Gulamgiri (Slavery), a scathing, witty attack on the Vedas as idle fantasies of the brahman mind which enslaved the shudras and atishudras. A hundred and forty years hence, Srividya Natarajan and Aparajita Ninan breathe fresh life into Phule’s graphic imagination, weaving in the story of Savitribai, Jotiba’s partner in his struggles.
In today’s climate of intolerance, here’s a manifesto of resistance—Phule setting the dynamite of thought to the scriptures and ideas Hindus hold dear.
By a small green hill called Patangarh flows the Narmada, the oldest river in the Indian subcontinent, once called Gondwana. Here, the Pardhan Gonds make extraordinary murals on their adobe homes, play the bana and sip mahua.
As a Gond artist today, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam’s art talks to both these walls and the spires of Gaudí’s extravagance in Sagrada Familia. His life too has travelled such distances. Twenty years ago Venkat had to draw a rickshaw to survive Delhi. Today he draws one to tell his life’s story in Finding my Way.
Through his journey he sings Kabir, as he winds his way into his pasts and futures to find a way to the present. Venkat is joined by S. Anand, who finds the words for the story.
Only three hundred copies of this numbered artist’s edition were printed on special paper.
The events that took place at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 4 June 1989 attracted international attention and sparked outrage at the Chinese government’s military advance on student demonstrators. Since then, a new generation of Chinese has grown up in a country that continues to grapple with issues of political liberalisation, democracy and censorship. Twenty-five years on, Morgan Chua’s bold political cartoons offer us a graphic history of a period China would still like to sweep under the carpet.
Bhimayana by Various (MRP: Rs 399)
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956), one of India’s foremost revolutionaries, grew up untouchable. Battling against the odds, he gained multiple doctorates, campaigned against social discrimination and the caste system and went on to draft the Constitution of India. Throughout his life Ambedkar faced routine discrimination: in school at the age of 10; in Baroda after his return from Columbia University; and while travelling in later life. The discrimination experienced by Ambedkar continues to haunt a majority of India’s 170 million dalits as many are still denied water, shelter and the basic dignities of life.
In this ground-breaking work, Pardhan-Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam interweave historical events with contemporary incidents, infusing fresh energy into the graphic idiom through their magical art.
‘These cartoons are as relevant today as they were seventy years ago’—Vijeta Kumar, on No Lauging Matter
‘A declaration of war... against Brahmanism, ignorance, injustice’—Indian Express, on A Gardener in the Wasteland
‘This is a special and beautiful book. It transports the reader to another time and age and space and perspective to a degree that I’ve never seen before’—John Berger, on Finding My Way
‘Captures the spirit of an incomplete struggle, a dormant volcano etched in the memory of the world’—Tenzin Tsundue, on Tianenmen
‘Highlights one of the biggest denials of human rights still in existence on the planet. Among the Top 5 political comic books’—CNN.com, on Bhimayana