Friday, October 19, 2007

The exhibition on assasinated Cuban leader Che Guevara held at New Delhi's Travancore Art Gallery has already attracted quite a lot of media attention. Below we are putting some of the of the paintings donated to the Cuban Embassy by the National Organisation for Solidarity with Cuba.

Original photograph of Che Guevara taken by famous photographer Alberto Korda (left) and one of the many variants of the silouhette icon found today (right)

As we can see that most of these paintings used the popular image of Che Guevara which is seen these days everywhere in t-shirts, bone china and a variety of articles of popular use. Yet few know that this shillouhette image of Che was actually an adaptation from a photograph taken by famous Cuban photographer Alberto Korda.

Alberto Korda never used this photograph for any commercial purpose. Yet it was used by many companies to sell their own products. Finally as recently as in 2000, Korda sued Smirnoff, an American Company for blatantly using his photograph for commercial purpose. The matter was settled out of court and Korda recieved an undisclosed amount of money in return. The money was however not used by Korda for any persobnal purpose but was handed over to the Cuban Government to be used in the Cuban Healthcare system.

Such deep idealism is rare today. It is unfortunate that today's youth use only Che's image and pay no heed to his ideals. Che is today transformed from a hero to a mere commercial icon. This is the story that is being told by Devajyoti Ray in his painting title Transmigration of Soul.

Devajyoti Ray's Transmigration of Soul

This painting is now going to be put up for regular display at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (the National Museum of Fine Arts), Havana. What is of credit for Devajyoti Ray is not however that his works are now being displayed at important national galleries abroad, but the fact that Ray continues to work with dedication for causes dear to him even when such works are not meant for commercial art market. In the above work for example Ray has used documents, paper-cuttings, etc from the time when Che was alive. He has used these to make a collage reminding us of the time when life was full of political intrigue and insecurity. Ray who is considered the face of post-liberalization Indian art, was not born then. Yet to put in an effort of this scale for a fading icon requires deep understanding. Kudos to the artist.