Navjot Altaf, often referred to simply as “Navjot,” is an artist, currently based in Bastar and Mumbai, India. Over the course of her four-decade career, Navjot has worked in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, installation, mixed-media, and public art. Navjot’s art draws from an extensive knowledge of art history, as well as an understanding of the tribal craftsmanship of India, particularly of the Bastar region. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, including at Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, at the XV Sydney Biennale, in Sydney, Australia and at the Talwar Gallery in New York City and New Delhi.
Webinar organized by Navnirman Sanskritik Manch and Intercultural Resources Mumbai and New Delhi, India
July 4th 2020
Single projection video,16.8 minutes, colour and loop
Part of a project ‘How Perfect Perfection Can Be’, 2016
Endemic to Western Ghats in India, the Karvi flower blooms once in 7 years. This time of mass blooming is referred to as mel in the Marathi language which means together. What also intrigues me about the wild Karvi is that the flower lasts only for fifteen to twenty days but the Western Ghats fill with popping sounds of dried up seed pods when the first drops of rain fall on them, spreading the seeds for the next bloom 7 years later…it was quite an experience for me. This magic in nature will disappear if the accelerating urbanization continues to ignore the utilization of the natural resources in a sustainable manner.
Kaleidoscope – 2018
Single projection video, 6.8 minutes, colour and loop
Kaleidoscope is made with the young in mind and to remember the existence of non-human life. The ecosystem needs them to thrive, many insects which contribute to the environment and work together to form the web of life are becoming the extinct species, whereas they indicate the interdependence of organisms within an ecosystem we all are part of, as no organism is isolated from its surroundings.
Body City Flows – 2015
Single projection video, 18.26 minutes, colour, sound, loop
Part of ‘Geographies of consumption’/ The City as Consumption Site: Bombay/Mumbai’.
Body City Flows attempts to address how the flow of river water is impacted by the abuse and appropriation of natural resources and excessive construction in Mumbai city, which has four river basins.
I see a link in the flow of rivers their tributaries and the human body’s vascular system, its veins and arteries. To create a better perception of the flow of life both in terms of the human body and the natural environment apart from the material researched and shot by me on four rivers [the Mithi, Poiser, Oshiwara and Dahisar] and footage of blood flow and blockages in the human body obtained from medical practitioners and hospitals – the video also includes an animation on blood flow in human body especially done for this work and a conversation with Dr Modak [Founder of Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation] on Mumbai’s present water situation.
If we observe, the veins of the body, roots of trees and a river’s delta – these visually convey a sense of the timelessness of similar shapes. The rivers are like the blood in the veins or the roots under trees, because they support life and provide sustenance. And because of their organic connection with the earth and water, civilizations have thrived off river systems. In the metaphorical sense rivers have been compared with the soul, implying the endless quest for roots or routes of knowing and perceiving nature. Here I intend to bring things full circle by connecting bodily blood flow to the present system of the water supply and the state of flow of the four rivers in Mumbai.
Soul Breath Wind – 2014 – 2018
Multi projection video, 60 minutes, colour, sound, loop
Soul Breath Wind addresses how systems of relationships are disrupted through insensitive human interventions at different levels, which open up questions concerning what and who are we really caring for in the absence of affective political will, lacuna in law and humanity itself. How the exploitation of natural resources, human, non-human alike is persisting in a big way under the pretext of progress and the well-being of the nation and its consequences.
Participants in the video who are from the agrarian classes speak about the impact on their relationship with land and how the imposed segregation from their live-world has resulted in the marginalization of the indigenous way of life, their lived experiences, oral tradition of knowledge, poetic dimensions of existence and their engagement in working towards co-creating the environment in which people, non-people and nature could flourish. More than 80 villages affected by the procedures of land acquisition for coal mining and power plants are protesting in northern central part of the state. They want to be the stakeholders and decision makers as they are in favour of renewable resources and want to continue farming.
On the other side in the South Bastar district, the communities are not only struggling with the forced land accusation procedures for steel plant, iron ore mining and other development projects but have also been dealing with the conflicts between the police force and the local habitants including the antagonism between the left-wing extremists and different police forces employed by the state. While doing this work, I have tried to understand the social, political and economic complexities of the present societies and how some values in these systems continue to stifle important dimension of human sensibility, which recognizes the ecological dynamics and is still alive in some indigenous population, living close to nature and [perhaps] have a broader perception of connectedness or interdependencies between all living and non-living things in nature.