Kochi: Recreating agrarian crisis and farmer protests

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Pune-based Prabhakar Pachpute’s works document Indian farmers’ living conditions.

Kochi: Recreating agrarian crisis and farmer protests
Prabhakar Pachpute’s works exhibited at Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Kochi: Agrarian crisis has been staring the Indian nation in its face for at least two decades. Though the political class has by and large chose to look the other way, the rest of the civil society, artists included, has reacted to it in its own way. Prabhakar Pachpute’s works at Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to reflect this grim reality of Indian villages.

Coming from an agrarian background, Pachpute knows well about the plight of farmers in the country — and that is exactly what his artwork essays at the Biennale.

The young artist banks heavily on charcoal, which is a major natural resource in his riverine belt of Maharashtra. Also using acrylic colours on plywood, Prabhakar has created large cutouts that represent farmer’s protests. The tall figures almost touch the ceiling of the exhibit space at the vintage Anand Warehouse in seaside Mattancherry.

The work, titled ‘Resilient Bodies in the Era of Resistance, for Kochi-Muziris Biennale’, has at one corner a large sculpture of a bull-like animal: its head a raised fist and the tail a plough.

The project is primarily inspired by an October 2017 protest in Rajasthan, where farmers half-buried themselves over the state’s plans to take over their land totalling 540 acres. “I am studying on how peasants use their bodies in very performative gestures as part of their stir,” says 32-year-old Prabhakar, who hails from the mining belt of Chandrapur in the eastern part of Vidarbha region that chiefly grows cotton, oranges and soya besides jowar, millet and rice. “I am into documenting their stories of protests across India,” says the artist who now lives and works from Pune and Mumbai.

His own family was into agriculture not long ago. “I have seen farmers selling their land and getting into mining. I started listening to stories and began reflecting deeper. Hence my work,” the artist says. “The protests have been my concern since the beginning.”

The biennale work looks at the needs of farmers in the length and breadth of the nation. Prabhakar has layered the exhibit area’s walls with drawings, sculpturally arranged canvases and plywood cutouts, overwriting its history with the contemporary narrative surrounding what the space once represented. “The farmers use their bodies and produce in their protest actions. This is to bring greater awareness to the injustices they face,” he says.

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