On 20th June at 5:00 pm, Ledikasyon pu Travayer, in a crowded "vernissage", launched the art exhibition called "Freedom, not Repression", which will be open for the next week. In the context of LPT's 30 year anniversary and of World Day of Solidarity with Victims of Torture, LPT is holding its second major art exhition. The previous one was "Artists against War, for Peace" three years ago.
The Mother Earth Hall is right now transformed by the presence of an impressive array of works of art, many of them literally bursting out of the rectangular frame, as if this frame can, in itself, be repressive. Present were adult literacy students, lovers of art, families of prisoners, LPT members, Lalit members, young people.
Many of the greatest living artists were present in person to see the launch of their work, from the sculptor Dyaneswar Dausoa to painter Khalid Nazroo, and including Vijay Maroothynadan, Nalini Treeboobhun, Krishna Luchoomun. These well-known artists, together with equally well known painter, Nirmala Luckeenarain, and scuptor in iron, Jocelyn Louise, generously exhibit their work alongside young, new artists, many of them also producing outstanding work. As you walk in on your left, there's a striking painting of a brightly coloured, horizontally striped puppet with a ball-and-chain on its foot, against a sombre, frightening black and white background. The title: A Prisoner is like a Puppet. This painting, along with five others is by Ram Yenkadu, who is a prisoner right now at Richelieu Prison. Krishna Luchoomun's installation of wood, cloth, barbed wire and big nails, is reminiscent of the most famous of all victims of torture, Christ while Lewis Dick's sculpture of Kaya exposes physical repression by officers of the present-day State in an arresting work in Cypress wood.
Six of Lewis Dick's students worked at their ongoing creations in wood, on the spot, making the exhibition come to life. Reena Noursai's big spiral made of painted tinfoil representing coming liberation and the certainty of hope is barred by square window bars. But their iron is rusting away, so that one bar is already missing. A haunting piece for her first public exhibition. Khalid Nazroo's shadow forms have leapt out of their frame, into four frames at once strip cartoon and shattered frame. Vijay Maroothynadan's painting is a haunting blue, with a single syringe injecting repression inside of us, individually or as a society or both. Mirella Motet's work is a painting bursting out of its frame in spokes and shapes. Ashwinee Appadoo-Ramasamy, also her first exhibition, has a frame in steps, and textures that change across the painting. She, like Nalini Treebobhun and Vijay Maroothynaden, express the freedom or repression of the mind.
Presiding, Lindsey Collen, LPT Secretary said how LPT's work in adult literacy, promoting the mother tongues as well as nurturing art, is all done within a desire to encourage the freedom for each one to develop ideas and thoughts. The 30 year anniversary, she said, is not some kind of "numerology", but represents the acculumated mass of foreward-moving experience. Born in different times, when rebellion was just under the surface, out of the student uprising of 1975, the workers' strike movement for union recognition, and the women's movement, LPT is both a product of this quest for freedom because it was formed by these movements, but then is, in turn, a part of the further quest for freedom.
Faced with economic and social crises of huge proportions, she said, there are basically two reactions: some people cry for more repression, for 60 years' prison, for the death penalty, against remission for good conduct, against giving bail and so on, as though by "getting rid of" a fixed number of "criminals", society will be purged and no longer produce the problems it at present produces. By contrast, everyone present for the launch supports the other way of looking at life: when faced with problems, what is needed is sufficient freedom for people to address the causes of the problems, at their very roots. We believe, she said, that repression only serves to add additional problems to already grave ones.
She explained that the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. It'll be during the exhibition, she said. From the 22nd June onwards days will bit-by-bit become longer again, signifying the hope of more light.
So, that times are sombre. There is still torture, both in Mauritius and in places like the Guantanamo base, where men are held without their families knowing, for years on end. But that there is hope. There is light.
Alain Ah-Vee, LPT President, asked why LPT was interested in an art exhibition? He said that art was about movement. Being a Tai Chi fundi, he explained how when some 10,000 people do Tai Chi together, it looks like a single large movement, although each person moves differently. Just as when a huge tree blows around in a cyclone, it is one huge movement, although each leaf may be doing something different. And so this exhibition, made up of individual works of art, as a whole becomes something even more powerful. The form, the putting together adds another strength to the work. It is this link between form and content that art is. And all LPT's work links form and content together, just as art does, just as a collective exhibition does.
He said that how in the visual arts, there is a contradiction between the movement of life, and holding everything still for a minute in the art. A kind of tension. Artists feel and express the tension between the freedom of movement and the repression that society, mainly through the State, imposes. Artists are liberating colours and form, desconstructing frames and reconstructing content of frames into circles, steps, breaking down rigidities, taming stone, wood and rocks.
Alain Ah-Vee also spoke of how present-day society turns all work into something very alienated, profit-centred, whereas both artists and LPT members do their work for the love of it. Our work is much more under our control than work out there in the work-market.
He spoke of the particular repression of not allowing children to use their language for their education, and how working towards mother-tongue education is one of LPT's aims.
The artists whose work is in the exhibition, in alphabetical order, are
Jean Lewis Dick
Mamod Issah Lalloo
Kishan Kumar Sookarah