Thursday, January 08, 2009

Controversial Paintings of Deities Censored in Mumbai

MUMBAI—Five canvases by Indian artist Nitai Das were withdrawn from an exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai after protests from the nonprofit organization Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, reports the Hindustan Times.Among the controversial canvases are a nude portrayal of a figure bearing a likeness to the deity Shiva and a portrait of Bharat Mata (Mother India) as a tribal girl clutching a baby in a cloth swing. "The exhibition was intended to highlight mythological themes juxtaposed with contemporary subjects," said Das.

Jehangir Gallery's secretary, K. G. Menon, admitted that while there are no censorship rules in place in the gallery, certain nude representations are off limits. "We had an instance with a nude sculpture last year, and because the artists wouldn't comply with the police to uninstall it, the matter was dragged to the high court," said Menon. "To prevent such extreme scenarios I personally requested Das to comply with the Samiti's demands."

The demands by the right-wing group, which has previously objected to the work of controversial Indian artist M. F. Husain, included signing a declaration in Marathi, which Das said he "couldn't fathom." Das was also "heavily warned not to reinstall any of the five paintings."
Menon further disclosed that since the nude sculpture incident, two policemen have also been assigned to survey galleries in the Colaba neighborhood to check for potentially controversial artwork.
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