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Smita Rajmane

First at Khoj
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Smita Rajmane is an artist who works with photography and installation. Her work so far has explored a number of structural systems: individual and social, domestic and public. Gradually, she moved away from binaries towards systems of relatedness such as the urban and the rural, sex and gender, caste and class, etc.


In the Indian cultural nexus, being a single woman affects the relations of power in which the individual is placed. These relations vary with respect to gender, class, and caste. Given that this is the context that Smita come from, it is imperative for her to be critical of these hierarchies in her work. In the Indian subcontinent, due to the history of caste oppression, caste and class are to this day deeply tied together. This creates a farcical existence where the marginalised never gain social mobility. Smita asserts that this class-caste-gender related determinism and feeling of helplessness constantly arises in her work. Her art focusses on making the viewers aware of themselves and explore a fragment of their own personalities that they generally do not recognise as their true selves.


The major themes of Smita’s work deal with societal norms that arise from class, caste and gender discrimination, communal violence, and the projections of hate and difference that pervade today’s world. This visual enquiry leads her to the questions of enforced conformity, where she finds herself framed within a certain socio-cultural, gendered, biased stereotypical slot. This also drove her to identify and explore the associations of a gender-based imaging within national iconographies, which are unofficial and mythical but have still been changing as per the national idiom and impacting the polity in the process. These images propagate and disseminate certain political agendas. Smita is interested in how these images travel in people’s daily lives and influence not only their responses but also their thought processes.


Violence against Dalits and other minority communities has been an abominable part of sub-continental life for centuries and the atmosphere of rampant divisiveness and state apathy does nothing to alleviate this. The domination of certain kinds of narratives continues to over-simplify and misinterpret situations like the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra in 2018. Smita’s work deals with researching, unravelling, and highlighting these kinds of issues through archival installations and public performances.