‘Indigo Narratives’ (2009-14) Re-opens at The Museum Of National Archives Of India

‘Indigo Narratives’ (2009-14) Re-opens  at The Museum Of National Archives Of India


by Shelly Jyoti

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Indigo holds a sustained presence in the post-colonial identity of India.




 Shelly Jyoti

Indigo Narratives (2008-17)

Homage:To the Farmers of champaran

Image: Chicago Cultural Centre, IL,USA, 2013

 The above installation titled’ Homage: To the Farmers of champaran’ is a varibale site specific textile hanging installation made of sculptural discs with Ajrakh prints. The installation maps the story of ryots of Champaran suggesting of their sorrowful tales inscribed in each circle also representing multiple voices enabling multiple sets to talk the sordid blue farmer story into the sculptural whole. There are 300 or more indigo dyed disks installations hanging are attached to one another, suggesting hundreds of years of subjugation. The parallels of circles hanging with different placement of traditional and contemporary prints also explores the manipulation of visual effect and aesthetics.





Shelly Jyoti

Indigo Narratives (2008-17)

Homage: Ballad of blue farmers of Champaran




monkey.jpg-nggid0291-ngg0dyn-190x230x100-00f0w010c011r110f110r010t010The above installation Homage: Ballad of blue farmers of Champaran 1917-18 is about 8ft high site specific -displays 16 human structures of 15” height, corded in twisted indigo cotton rope with metallic chains perched on black acrylic painted wooden buttons convey how the native farmers were oppressed for Eurocentric need by colonizers in eastern India. The indigo plantation became deltaic obsession with Britishers after World War 1. The sculptures hanging from top to bottom at different levels suggest their persistent demands to free them from land revenue system as that was leading the native farmers/ families in debts and eventually deaths. The metallic chains around the farmer is suggestive of slavery and oppression and exploitation.



Indigo Narrative : An Ode to Neel Darpan

Acrylics on canvas, triptych

30×23 inches each, 2009

Each panel of the triptych exhibits the images of hawks that are metaphorical to the British who twisted the indigo farmers with their razor sharped beaks with lotuses in their beaks rising over a ground with worms. The hawks, representing the British colonizers, twist and manipulate lotuses in their beaks. The lotuses signal planters, British and Indian individuals who acted as intercessors and translators between the British colonizers and the indigo farmers, here represented as the hardworking and severely underappreciated worms






Indigo Narrative : An Ode to Neel Darpan 2009-17

Indigo: The Blue Farmers

Multi media spoken word poetry, 52 lines





Indigo Narrative : An Ode to Neel Darpan

Indigo Narratives: Narration in resist( a section)


 neel darpan ajrakh  copy







Shelly jyoti,

indigo Narratives: Narration in Resist

Ajrakh printing and dyeing and painting on khadi





 Installation 6

Shelly jyoti

Indigo Narrative :The paper boat

Newspaper Origami

6×18 inches each, 2009




 Not a chest of indigo reached England without stains of human blood

This origami boat is representative of media, translation of story of indigo farmers written by Deenbandhu Mitra(1860). The translated copy from vernacular to English by Madhusudan was sent to British parliament and became a media discussion with elite of Calcutta of bringing awareness of the plight of farmers.





 Installation 7


Shelly jyoti

Indigo Narrative : The neel coolie jacket

Acrylics on canvas

30×23 inches each, 200911a copy





The installation sculpture Indigo narratives: Neel coolie jacket is fully structured and fully finished ready to wear, size medium , painted canvas with army print lapels investigating the Eurocentric need of indigo color during the World War I with a brass identification of the porter/coolie on the arm.

The jacket is constructed signifying the oppression and forced labor symbolically and further investigate the presence of indigo as dye/ color that brings together natural history, science, technology, global economics, politics, spirituality and art in the past with the present.

Indigo Narratives: An ode to Neel Darpan (2009-17)

Over view:

Indigo holds a sustained presence in the post-colonial identity of India.

These works draws upon India’s history, literary accounts of oppression on farmers of Chamapran movement in 1917-1918. These narratives are inspired by the social, economic and political, historical references and situations affected by the tyranny of British colonial indigo planters on native farmers and Mahatma Gandhi’s subsequent intervention in Bihar, the first satyagarh led by Mahatma Gandhi on the Indian soil after his South African experience of fight against racialism. In the 19th century, Bengal was the world’s biggest producer of indigo but today, the deep blue color of indigo is synthetically created in a lab and is associated, in the West, with blue jeans more than its torrid colonial past.

Neel Darpan’(1860) was written by Dinbandhu Mitra on the plight of indigo farmers. The play portrayed the eco-political exploitation by the colonizers in early 19th century. ”An Ode to Neel Darpan ‘is a narrative retold in site-specific installations. The installations re-contextualize with tapestry of designs and are a tribute to indigo farmers of Champaran. The block printed disks are inscribed with 15 different traditional and contemporary indigo print which maps the story of ryots of Champaran suggesting of their sorrowful tales inscribed in each circle

Artist statement:

The works engage textile reference of ajar printing and dyeing of coastal Gujarat, literary texts such as Neel Darpan through the history of India’s colonial past along with references to indigo plant/color/dye. The use of azrak printing on khadi in my works is examining the immigrants with indigo technique which came along with them. I examine the implication of personal, political and cross cultural choices of communities that migrated from Sindh and Baluchistan with the craft of indigo, with a strong narrative element to create and yet preserve their identities. I create a cultural context of my work by narration of ‘Neel darpan’ through visual medium. I went and worked with 9th generation Azrak artisans in Bhuj in interiors of Gujarat on khadi fabric with ancient indigo resist printing technique with contemporary prints and ideas of 2009. My works interpret the politics of indigo with objects, sculptures installations and paintings within my Indigo narrative 2009-2017 series.

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Shelly Jyoti , Salt: The Great March 2013-14

Omnipresent 2

Ajrakh printing dyeing and needle work on khadi







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Shelly Jyoti , Salt: The Great March 2013-14


Ajrakh printing dyeing and needle work on khadi













Between 2009-14 these works in this series traveled to seven venues in India and the U.S. as part of a two-woman show ‘Indigo: Shelly Jyoti and laura kina’ including Chicago cultural centre, IL. It has recently re- opened in India at the Museum of National Archives of India.

April-may 2017: The Museum of National Archives of India
2013 November-Gandhi Memorial Centre ,Washington DC, USA
2013 January -until April 27 2013 – Chicago Cultural Center – IL USA
2011 May Diana Lowenstein Gallery Maimi USA
2011 January Art exchange Gallery Seattle USA
12 -18 January, 2010 Nehru Center Worli, Mumbai, India.
23-28 December, 2009 Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre New Delhi India
15-16 December, 2009 Red Earth Art Gallery, Baroda, Gujarat India.


LECTURE & TALKS Indigo:Shelly Jyoti & Laura kina 2009-14

January 30, 2013 Artist Talk Quilting , Art history and Metaphor DePaul University students With Prof Jean Bryan Chicago Rooms, Chicago Cultural Center,IL,USA

January 31,2013 Public Lecture Artist talk Indigo:Shelly Jyoti & Laura kina Shelly Jyoti, Laura kina and Pushpika Frietas ,Chicago Rooms, Chicago Cultural Center,IL,USA

February 11,2013 Artist Talk- Indigo:Shelly Jyoti & Laura kina Art Institute of Chicago, students with Prof Nora Taylor- Asian Art Now , Chicago Cultural Center,IL, USA

February 20,2013 Artist Talk: Art Institute of Chicago,Textile Society, Chicago Cultural Center,IL, USA
2011Lecture &Talk Collaborations :Indian and US Artist WomanMade Gallery,IL,USA

2009 Lecture & Talk 31st December -Forum for Contemporary Theory Baroda, Gujarat, India
Lecture The Politics of Indigo : Revisting India’s Torrid Colonial past