By Nasreen Sattar
The Ministry of Culture, Government of India in collaboration with the Nazar Foundation in New Delhi presented Kanu Gandhi’s exhibition of rare and intimate photographs of Mahatma Gandhi. Kanu Gandhi was Gandhiji’s grand nephew and personal chronicler.
Gandhiji’s noteworthy role in the Indian National Congress, freedom struggle against the British rule for India and his work with the downtrodden and underprivileged have earned him the reputation of the ‘Father of the nation’.
Depicting the various stages of his life, his struggles, his feats and his struggles, his family and friends, his way of living and his role in significant encounters and movements, his grand nephew Kanu Gandhi has done a remarkable job in bringing to life Gandhiji’s practices to the present day world.
Kanu was encouraged by Gandhiji to take pictures. He got him a loan from his associate and dear friend Ghanshyam Das Birla for Rs 100 which was enough for him to buy a Roliflex camera and a film roll. Gandhiji had three conditions though, that his grand nephew would never ask him to pose, would not use a flash nor use any funds from the ashram.
He played an instrumental role in Gandhiji’s life, by accompanying and assisting him in a lot of his endeavours. Kanu’s marriage was arranged by the Mahatma and he also breathed his last on the lap of Abha, Kanu’s wife.
After Gandhiji passed away, Kanu lost interest in photography. However he sporadically did some photo shoots but became more engaged with spreading Gandhism till his death.
Pramodhini, a visitor at the exhibition said that, “The photographs are a treasure trove and I feel privileged that I was able to make it for the exhibition as it was very enriching.”
There were different phases of Gandhiji’s life depicted in most of the pictures which were interesting, and took you back in years reminiscing his life in its various forms. There were shots of Gandhiji at Birla house in Mumbai, Mandipur, East Bengal, Assam and Madras where he was addressing crowds of people who were wishing to meet him.
There were pictures of blood stained clothes worn by him at the time of his assassination, there were earthy and realistic pictures of his hut at the Northwestern Frontier Province and of his ashrams.
There were touching shots of him collecting funds for Harijans at Rashtriya Salaya, Rajkot.
There were pictures of him with Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore and his devoted and loving wife Kasturba Gandhi.
There were many pictures of his ashrams and his travels, his journey through simplicity yet success. Prints of the mode of transports that he used, the simple dhoti he wore which brought out his affinity for Swadeshi and pictures of him sharing his food with little children which reflected his compassionate side.
There were pictures of him addressing riot hit victims, dealing with social and communal issues at that time and participating in the freedom struggle and working for those who were underprivileged towards removing disparities and doing away with the evils of racism and differences in society and practicing ahimsa or non violence in many ways and forms .
The curator at NGMA Vasvi Oza says,”The exhibition is one of a kind and was done in partnership with Mr Prashant from the Nazar Foundation in Delhi to mark Gandhi Jayanti and also to promote archival photographs which are of a different era as they are relevant in the present day and age.”