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Indigo First, Famine Later

Berlin oct - Nov 2019

We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?

~ Franz Kafka

The ‘experience’ comes from an enquiry initiated by our collective efforts to understand ‘existence’ and its parody, Death makes its essential to validate the meaning of human life. The structure to validate and attain equilibrium with this parody fundamentally faces the ‘absurdism’. Absurd arises from the inquiry into the meaning of life, but what goes beyond absurd? If and when the death is ignored, denied, an Aporia over absurd forbids every ounce of rationality in humane. This aporia is characteristic of the British colonisation of India where life and death of citizens was entirely repudiated.

Indigo manufacturing and cultivation in the Indian sub-continent under the British is a known yet unknown as the world is largely unaware of the extent of inhumane conditions then. The slow and systematic realisation of British goals over a period of almost two centuries led to banishment of identity of villages together. What is absurd in the indigo revolution is the complete denial of its existence by the world. While atrocities of Vietnam wars, Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing are recognised and condemned, the suffering of the indigo farmers and tenants goes unnoticed. It is largely bizarre because the indigo cultivation in the Bengal and Bihar provinces of India, combined holding just a small portion of Indian area alone suffered two perilous famines; which are amongst the top five most atrocious famines of all times killing up to 17 Million people!

Indigo cultivation and the profits conquered the minds of Colonisers while it also supported the wars. Both the famines, are consequent to the obtuse decisions of the aristocracy and the government that deprived farmers’ right to food and life.  The food that would have saves lakhs of lived in 1943 was stored as backup for the world war participant British.

What requires today is the recognition of what happened, and accepting the inert cultural devastation that it has caused. Meenakshi’s works dwell into the realities of indigo desolation and what it would interpret to the contemporary Indian. Her course of thought begins into inquiring the reason of complete denial of these events of two centuries. Working largely in textile, and natural indigo dye, her works explore the changing topography and subsequent culture. She has enforced the absence of human in her body of works as was the existence of these farmers denied for the last three centuries. Using jute, the ample material of Bengal and Bihar and the soft and sharp blue threads, her blue menaces peace. Using the peaceful Blue violently is a parody that illustrates her emphasis on silent subjugation of Indian lands.


The diplomacy of British and their absolute impairment to existence of others beyond their own is the cause of modern mass murders by policies. Haunting is the fact that these devastations have further always been peripheral and would cause other famine by indigo (or any other object of human vanity). The Indigo Revolution, creates a parallel to the absurdities of modern inequalities and the third world existences, to break the refusal in addressing the underlying anxieties.


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