Navjot Altaf

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over one year

Navjot Altaf was born in 1949 in Meerut and got her diploma from the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1972. She has held several solo exhibitions including an installation show with paintings, screen printers, films and music called ‘Links Destroyed and Rediscovered’ in Mumbai in 1994. Navjot has also participated in exhibitions which highlight women painters like 'Expression's Women's Cultural Festival in Mumbai in 1990. She has also exhibited her work in many international shows.

This grant will enable visual artist Ms. Navjot Altaf and a carpenter/carver in Mumbai to work in close residency with three traditional artists from Bastar District in Madhya Pradesh. Altaf has known Mr. Jaidev Baghel, a bell metal sculptor, and his close associates Mr. S. Raituram and Ms. Shantabai, for over 15 years. She first worked with them in Bastar - by her own admission in an incomplete way - at Shilpi Kendra, a centre for the arts in Kondegaon, Bastar District.

The artists felt a need to try to under­stand the process through which each constructed and arrived at his or her working images. A residency would enable them to work together at Shilpi Kendra and Mumbai to discuss concepts of form, probe artistic ideas and techniques, under­stand the role of antipodal tribal mythology and culture, closely examine individual preconceptions and appreciate one another's social and aesthetic concerns.

Working in a commune workshop may help Altaf move away from the individualistic predispositions of an urban artist towards group creativity. Turning to traditional sources is not a revivalist journey for her but rather a chance to enliven the imagination and aid self-reflection. She feels that working with Shantabai - whose traditional role is to paint wooden structures carved by her spouse, apart from managing her heavy domestic responsibilities - will also give her the opportunity to look at her own feminist commitments, and to situate the question of gender within a wider personal, social, and aesthetic debate.

The collaborating artists intend to develop about ten wood sculptures in both the domestic and work environment. These will be installed and viewed in Shilpi Kendra, Kondegaon - the first time that such an installation will have taken place - before moving to public sites, such as galleries, colleges and women's centres, in Mumbai and other cities. The proceeds from sales of the resulting collection of art objects will be shared equally.

Collaborators: Navjot Altaf, visual artist, Mumbai
S . Raituram, woodcarver, Kondegaon
Shantabai, woodcarver/painter, Kondegaon
S.Kumar, woodcarver, Kondegaon
S.Raju Mewada, carpenter/carver, Mumbai
Bhanumathi Narayan, art historian, Mumbai