Sweeping Change: : Transforming Attitudes Towards the Humble Jharu
An exhibition of jharus or brooms at the Gandhi Smriti, New Delhi in April 2010. In collaboration with The Asian Heritage Foundation and Meena Kadri (New Zealand)
This exhibition looks at Mahatma Gandhi as a source of inspiration and someone who believed in dignity of labour. For him, like the charkha and the community prayer, the jharu became an instrument of freedom and empowerment. The exhibition was divided into various sections:
1. Introduction. Each jharu has a unique story to tell – from where it's fibres were sourced, how it was skillfully crafted, who's hands have grasped it in service and what corners of the nation it has swept. The iconic jharu is woven into our social, cultural and economic fabric – from cultivation to craft, selling to sweeping.
2. Makers Broom making constitutes a specialised craft which provides an essential everyday item – fusing utility with artisanal technique.
3. Sweepers: Those who sweep provide us with the pleasure of clean homes, schools, offices and streets yet often fail to gain our respect. "Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men." – Mahatma Gandhi
4. Vendors: Mobile micro-entrepreneurs contribute to a culture of distribution which is liberated from fixed locations – playing a vital role in the last-mile delivery of the humble jharu.
5. Materials: The sweeping of our homes, streets, temples, mosques and beyond requires a variety of jharu of nuanced characteristics. Various materials yield multiple manifestations to meet this diverse array of settings.
6. Symbolism and Myths: The jharu's potent symbolism surrounding cleansing and cleanliness is evident from the realms of religion to sites of protest. The image of a broom can incite a range of responses from reverence to controversy.
7. Conclusion: The humble jharu passes through many hands on its journey from field to floor. As we reflect on its power to clear the path before us – let us also consider the many who have been part of its story.