Agitating Students of Baroda and the Death of a Department Foretold
|( The Online Campaign against Aqueel Ahmed by students)|
Something is rotten in the Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda. Once upon a time this faculty was the breeding centre of talents and during the boom years it was one of the hottest destinations for campus recruiters. Being an alumnus of this faculty had given edge to the artists over those from other art colleges for the sheer number of talented artists, art critics and art teachers it had produced. In Baroda, those who have studied there know, learning never ended within the classrooms and libraries. It was extended to canteens, chai laris, artists’ homes and even at the boundary walls of the hostels. In those days anybody could approach any teacher for advice at anytime. Artists who lived in and around Baroda used to spend their time in the campus adding to the quality of the environment. Hierarchy and regimentation were alien to the daily lexicon of faculty parlance. What Hansa Mehta, the visionary Vice Chancellor who had initiated the establishment of this fine arts faculty in 1949, had envisioned got translated into a reality over a period of time thanks to the selfless hard work imparted to it by several stalwarts in the Indian art and pedagogy scene.
Today things stand at a different juncture here; almost at a point of crisis. Students in the sculpture department agitate to remove their head of the department and the only permanent teacher, Aqueel Ahmed, from his post. During an earlier crisis in 2007, students had wanted a teacher to be retained who had been suspended by the authorities for him taking a stance against the right wing fundamentalists. Today, they want their teacher to go for his authoritarian attitude, nepotism and deviant behavior. Female students complain against him of sexual harassment and the students in general speak of his casual and callous attitude towards teaching. An online petition is already on in the social networking sites asking like-minded people to sign in for his removal. Authentic sources say that the controversial teacher has been suspended and would be facing an enquiry committee appointed by the University.
|(Aqueel Ahmed )|
Aqueel Ahmed may be suspended or in the worst case scenario, he may be even reinstated with more power. But the problem does not end there. The sculpture department has been one of the best departments in Baroda. Illustrious sculptors like Pradosh Dasgupta, Sankho Chowdhury, Mahendra Pandya, Rajnikant Panchal, Raghav Kaneria and Krishna Chatpar were the teachers there. Many important contemporary sculptors have come out of this department; Himmat Shah, C.Jagdish, Ravinder Reddy, Latika Katt, Valsan Koorma Kolleri, Prithvipal Sahdev Ladi, N.N.Rimzon, Alex Mathew, Reghunathan, T.V.Santhosh to name a few. Some of them have even taught in this department as ad-hoc teachers. Slowly, they all went away, leaving this department orphaned.
We can have our own reasons to support or neglect the present student agitation. But any right thinking person in our art scene should ask one pivotal question: what caused the erosion of teaching talents from this department? This would come with a second question: why the university or the faculty authorities promoted ad-hoc-ism? Even if ad-hoc teachers were trialled and tested, after proving their worth not only as better teachers but also as worth reckoning contemporary artists, why were they not made permanent in the department as in the case of the painting department? Some people may cite the Chandramohan issue of May 2007 as a watershed. It is often said that the fall of Baroda school started with the exodus of talented people from Baroda to other places like Delhi. It is not completely true as there are instances that many successful contemporary sculptors who had taught in Baroda lost interest as they were not made permanent faculties and left the place even before 2007.
The students who agitate today say that they don’t even get to see a good sculptor in the vicinity of the sculpture department as the head of the department indulges in nepotism and promotes only the yes-sir types. In short, one could say that there is no good ambience in Baroda school any more. Fear psychosis that has engulfed most of the institutions has also affected this school which had been absolutely liberal once upon a time. Today, no artist living in Baroda likes to visit the faculty regularly. No visiting artists or art critics dare to drop in due to entry restrictions. If at all there are some slide shows taking place today by the visiting artists, they happen because of the good offices of some of the well meaning teachers still left there.
|( Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda)|
This situation should change. To facilitate the change there should be opinion generation in the art scene. The people who could influence the policy makers of the MS University should come forward to lead the agitation. When students agitate they are faced with the threats of either rustication or failure in the examinations. Another important thing is that if there are technical difficulties to appoint permanent teachers in any department, as they do it in the (fully) developed countries, the authorities should take measures to invite the most important artists/pedagogues as short term visiting faculties to give tutorials to students on an individual or cluster basis. Not far from Baroda, in Ahmedabad, most of the institutions including the NID and CEPT invite important scholars from their respective fields to give tutorials to the students.
Baroda is not the only rotting art institution in India. There are several. People with no adequate qualifications teach in various departments. Once the job is assured, their whole effort is to secure it further. Once that is done, they want to climb in the hierarchy. They flout the University Grants Commission’s norms even to cling on to their posts. Doctoral Degrees are bought to assure professorship. Boots are licked to be the next in the promotion list. Secrecies are maintained. Home cooked foods are served. Pallus are dropped. Smiles are exchanged. Fake documents are created. Political games are played. All these are done in the name of education. While medical colleges do not appoint quacks to teach the future docs, why quacks are posted in fine arts colleges that produce culture docs? Both we call professional courses.
When a government servant, for example, an engineer dies while on duty, his widow is given a job by the government, based on her qualification. But of course not as an engineer. But in art schools, dying-in-harness could fetch a widow with a degree in English Literature, even the job of an art history professor. None asks because none cares.
That’s All Folks!
|( a work from the show)|
Art Musings, Mumbai presents their exhibition titled, ‘That’s All Folks!’ a solo featuring recent works by Raghava KK.
Raghava KK is a multi-disciplinary artist working in a variety of genres like painting, film, installation, iPad Art, interactive art and performance art. His work conceptually deals with the construct of identity, gender and sexuality within the structures of power, knowledge, and empathy. His visual metaphors in this show are derived from three points, the cartoon, the historical and the memetic, prodding an emotional response from the viewer to an exaggerated flattening of the Indian history, using caricatures and instructive rigidity of memes.
The show will be on view till the 25 the October 2013.
|( a work at the show)|
Bliss Art Gallery, Pune presents a solo show titled, ‘Natural Rhythms’. The show displays scenery and line art paintings by artist Ravhi Songirkaar.
Icon Art Gallery, Hyderabad, presents a solo show of art works by artist Bala Bhakta Raju.The show titled, ‘Avighna’ has a specific theme, namely paintings of Lord Ganesha.
|( a self portrait by Dhaval Dhairyawan)|
Piramal Art Gallery, Mumbai presents a retrospective of photographer, Dhaval Dhairyawanwhose untimely demise at the young age of 32 has prompted this show.
(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)