Photographs retrace the Dandi route
By Satarupa Paul – On 12 March, 1930, the Father of the Nation, M.K. Gandhi, started out on foot from his ashram in Sabarmati and reached Dandi, a small village by the Arabian Sea, a month later. His mission was to make salt and break the law that made extraction or sale of salt a British monopoly. More than eight decades later, four photographers — Edson Dias, Chaitanya Guttikar, P. Madhavan and Vinobha Nathan — set forth to retrace the Mahatma’s footsteps in what Time magazine calls one of the ‘World’s Top 10 Most Influential Protests’ — the Dandi March.
Appropriately titled The Salt Prints, the project, led by Goa Centre for Alternative Photography (Goa CAP), aimed at exploring the strategies used by Gandhi to mobilise mass appreciation towards a cause and sought to apply them to visual arts and photography. “The most fascinating part of Gandhi’s life was how he transformed India’s freedom struggle from an elite movement to a ‘people’s movement’. We wanted to do the same, and bring alternate photography to the common people. What better way to do that than by retracing the Dandi March itself,” says Guttikar.
The artists started the march on 6 July but their estimate of being able to cover the original 387km march in 24 days proved to be too optimistic. “We realised that the ground realities today were quite different. Several industries have come up on the way and we had to take diversions of 10kms in some places. So while Gandhi traversed 387kms, we did almost 500kms for the same stretch,” says Dias. Along the way, the artists took photographs that, according to them, encapsulated Gandhian philosophy. While Madhavan documented the changing landscape and how it plays a role in creating a movement, Nathan captured the ‘memories of Dandi’. In villages where Gandhi stopped to rest, Nathan located, photographed and documented the stories of 16 people connected to the Dandi March. Although The Salt Prints planned photography workshops for the youth in the villages, they could only manage a few. Madhavan says, “We tried to retrace the march within the original time frame, but the extra distance we travelled meant that we had less time for each village.”
Goa CAP hopes to showcase The Salt Prints’ photos in exhibitions across India. The project received donations in the form of films, lomo cameras and cash, and all donors will receive one signed photo from each artist. Dias says, “We also plan to bring out a book with all the photos and documented stories from The Salt Prints.”