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Artists protest Minister’s remarks

Staff Reporter

They spoke on misconceptions regarding Indian culture

— Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Artists staging a protest at the Town Hall in Bangalore on Sunday.

BANGALORE: The comments made by Minister for Medical Education Ramachandra Gowda at the inauguration of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) last week have left the artists outraged, so much so that they have demanded that he either resign or be sacked.

A gathering of over 150 artists, theatrepersons, writers, and journalists, brought together by Sahiti Kalavidara Okkoota, protested here on Sunday against Mr. Gowda’s remarks about “pseudo-intellectuals distorting the tradition of India”. The protesters filled a large canvas with cartoons, drawings and sketches about the Minister’s “disregard’ for artists. They sang songs, read out poetry and spoke on the misconception that “Indian culture” was a single entity. Bangalore-based artist M.S. Murthy, who had doughtily responded to Mr. Gowda’s remarks and was asked to “get out” by the Minister, had his revenge by drawing Mr. Gowda’s cartoon figure spurning food being served to him, and asking the person serving him to “get out!”, thus conveying the message there was no space for a rational dialogue.

Mr. Murthy said, “Critiquing art should be left to the art critics and artists themselves.” Stating that the unsavoury episode was a blatant violation of freedom of expression, he said he had been watching artists’ rights being eroded over the past couple of decades. The protesters were also incensed that a number of prominent artists were not invited to the inauguration of the gallery. C.S. Krishna Setty, artist and art critic, added, “Out of the 500 pieces brought from the NGMA in New Delhi, only the work of one or two artists from Karnataka had been displayed.”

During the protest, there was much laughter and exasperation over Mr. Gowda’s remark that “I am the Government”. Basvaraj S., theatreperson, said: “The Government is an elected body of 224 people. A responsible Minister like Mr. Gowda is supposed to protect the artist community.” Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, noted film director, said that the Chief Minister needed to advise his Ministers about “culture”. The fact that he had not condemned MLA Y. Sampangi’s alleged act of accepting bribe or the Sri Rama Sene’s actions in Mangalore were a pointer to his agenda, he alleged.

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