JNU’s visual culture


Janaki Nair, who teaches history at JNU, on the aural and visual culture of the university:

Here Irom Sharmila and her nasal drip remind people of her struggle against the army presence in Manipur, there Manmohan Singh stands pilloried for his economic policies, and in another place Jyotiba Phule and Ambedkar stand shoulder to shoulder in support of Dalit/Bahujan rights. A truly nationalist Last Supper seats the Congress greats at a common table. “Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter,” we are reminded via an African proverb on the walls of the Centre for Historical Studies. There are good, bad and banal posters. The prose is not always inspiring. But all this brilliant mural practice is the handiwork, quite literally, of JNU students.

These handmade posters and murals are proof of what so many people have declared and asserted on TV and in the press over the past 10 days: that the unique achievement of JNU is the extraordinary amount of learning that goes on beyond the walls of the classroom and the library. It nurtures an aural and visual culture which is quite simply unique. It goes well beyond political engagement.

The image above courtesy a Priyadarshini Sen piece in Outlook magazine. Inter alia:

For others, campus life offered the possibility of breaking stereotypes and dissolving inhibitions. Udit Raj, a Lok Sabha MP who enrolled in the five-year integrated course in Ger­man in 1980, recalls that he had almost no knowledge of English when he joined. “On my first day, a senior student leader was rambling away and not understanding what she was saying, I answered in yes or no, hoping that was the expected answer.” In the coming years, Udit learnt to think in English, crammed in the libraries for hours or participated in open debates during late-night study breaks.

That would be the same Udit Raj, member of Smriti Irani’s party, who also said: