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SOS Gandhiji: A brush with the Mahatma

Indian freedom fighter is the muse of Iranian artist Malekeh Nayiny

  • Iranian artist Malekeh Nayiny's show is being held at XVA Gallery, Bastakiya. Image Credit:XPRESS/Zarina Fernandes
  • Nayiny considers Gandhi as her muse and often sees him in her dreams. Image Credit:XPRESS/Zarina Fernandes
  • Malekeh Nayiny says making Gandhiji paintings was an enriching experience. Image Credit:XPRESS/Zarina Fernandes
  • Malekeh Nayiny with one of her Gandhi portraits. Image Credit:XPRESS/Zarina Fernandes

No front page newspaper photographs and hardly any television coverage. Freedom fighter and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi's 61st death anniversary last Friday did not merit much attention in India.

But the hero of the country's independence movement was a big draw at a Dubai exhibition by an Iranian artist.

SOS Gandhiji and Gandhi Bandages, running at XVA Gallery, are a collection of 18 portraits of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by Malekeh Nayiny, who lives and works in Paris and has exhibited her works all over the world.

The spirit of Gandhi

Nayiny considers Gandhi as her muse and often sees him in her dreams. “The spirit of Gandhi is my terra firma,'' she asserts.

Nayiny says she got the inspiration for her latest creation following a routine visit to her aunt at an old age home around four years back. “It was just before Touran [her aunt] turned 90. She showed me a painting of Gandhiji. It impressed me so much that I clicked a picture of her, holding her work. Months passed by, but the image of the Mahatma refused to fade from my mind. I started getting hypnotic dreams. At the end of each dream, I would see Gandhi. The dreams were confusing and at times chaotic, but I was lucky to have Gandhi as my guide through the mayhem,'' she recalls.

“Last year, I visited my aunt and asked her if I could have her Gandhi painting. She offered it to me graciously and I set upon doing my own series on the great man.''

But as Nayiny had no experience in water colours she was not sure how she would fare. “It was a challenge, but I decided not to give up. Self-criticism, a sense of shame, doubt and fear of what others will think of my work became a part of what has been a memorable experience. I made 18 portraits of Gandhiji. None looked like him but the process has been enriching. It seemed that by doing these awkward drawings I was trying to get closer to Gandhi and his message of life, which I try to apply to my own life, perhaps just as awkwardly as I have in these paintings,'' says Nayiny who is planning to exhibit her works in India.

  • When: Until February 20
  • Where: XVA Gallery, Bastakiya