SANTHAL FAMILY – Positions Around an Indian Sculpture


MuHKA, Antwerpen

01 February 2008 - 05 May 2008

This exhibition takes as its starting point [*Santhal Family*]( a work made by Indian artist Ramkinkar Baij in 1938. Considered to be the first major modernist public sculpture in India, *Santhal Family* combines an interest in the forms of modernism and temple/traditional sculpture with a concern for ground level reality. Depicting a family group from the Santhal tribe carrying their possessions with them to a new place of work, it is a portrait of labour that presents the complexity of its subject without heroism or pathos. Positioned around a single sculpture, which anchors the exhibition and provides a focus for reflection, this project adopts an expansive model that avoids the forced generalisations often associated with so-called ‘regional’ exhibitions. Commissioning new work from contemporary artists as well as with the display of archival material, it sets out to explore the art historical significance of Santhal Family as well as the sculpture’s relationship to contemporary debates concerning art and social change. In particular, it looks at how aesthetic gestures can speak beyond their immediate circumstances and how diverse political and formal elements can coalesce within a single work. Starting with *Santhal Family*, Ramkinkar’s most famous work, this exhibition radiates outwards: first, from the state of Bengal, where the sculpture stands, drawing historic links between left wing politics and the visual arts, literature, theatre and film; then, through the work of contemporary Indian artists familiar with Santhal Family as an iconic work. And finally, through the work of diasporic and non-Indian artists who will consider the sculpture’s importance from afar—as a work that links the art histories of different continents and provides an entry point into the complexity of India’s cultural and political scene.

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