Prabhakar Pachpute’s work depicting the effects of mining on landscapes and people, is dark and resembles the story board of a dystopian world in a science fiction film. There are malnourished headless bodies holding mining equipment on barren land with cracks on the surface. But this isn’t just a figment of Pachpute’s imagination. It is the reality that has been a part of the artist’s childhood as he grew up in Chandrapur district, Maharashtra.
“In the context of India, it is difficult for farmers to grow on their land once they are surrounded by mines. There is no proper rain or irrigation facility. The rivers and ponds get polluted and this affects the ecological system. Many farmers sell their land to miners,” says Pachpute, whose grandfather sold his farm land and joined a mining company.
The industry of mining in India is always haunted by its inability to address environmental degradation and displacement of several people from their homes. The artist is very familiar with this and tries to reflect it in his work. “I was very small when people from a small village were displaced. Many of them moved to a town called Rajura. In 2008, there was a big protest against Adani’s coal project that was situated close to Tadoba Andhari National Park. Most of the time, I keep thinking about what I see and hear. My ideas come out in sketches but it takes time visualise everything.”
The 30-year-old artist has since travelled to several parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh as well as parts of Germany, UK, Brazil and other parts of the world to conduct research on mining. While he has seen the atrocities caused by mining, he came across something on a positive note.
In Germany, he stumbled upon an open cast mine that had been turned into an amphitheatre as a public space.
“This was a turning point in my research. I have never seen an open cast mine turned into something like this. It becomes a major example for us. One of the mines in Germany now even serves as a museum. When I visited north eastern parts of England, I saw that an entire open cast mine was covered with soil. In India, many excavations happen but we don’t know what to do with the land.”
Recently, Pachpute’s work was shown at Art Basel in June 2017 and was praised for depicting an important issue that brought out mining’s contribution to air pollution, threat to biodiversity and a stark change in landscapes. He mixes his art with poetry that further highlights his work, “I have an interest in poetry and Marathi literature. I read a lot of poetry and use it. There is a way to use metaphors that adds to the poetic language of the art work.”
You can see Prabhakar Pachpute’s work at TIFA Working Studios on September 22, 6:30 pm onwards, where the artist will give a presentation of his work in the field.
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