Dancing with the lens 

This unique exhibition by Latitude 28 gallery highlights the rural landscape of Mewar along with the Gauri Dance, documented in digital photographs

The Gauri Dance of Mewar is a centuries-old performance art tradition that is celebrated among the tribal communities of Rajasthan. Documenting this folk dance form, gallery Latitude 28 in association with Museo Camera presents ‘Gauri Dancers: The Opera of Mewar’.  

The exhibition features the works of photographer Waswo X. Waswo and artist Rajesh Soni.  Udaipur-based photographer Waswo X. Waswo delved into the rural landscape of Mewar to learn about the Gauri Dance first-hand, from the rural communities that witness the Gauri Dance every year, and from the performers themselves. The project was documented in a series of digitally shot studio photographs, meticulously hand-painted by artist Rajesh Soni, and were published in the eponymous book Gauri Dancers by Mapin Publishing in 2019. 

“Here, the camera can be a keen tool of the ethnographer, insidiously attempting to capture the raucous spectacle of Gauri as it unfolds in its elastic, episodic, permutation and combination of religious myths, political satire, and documentary of human behaviour. The performance is a farce, but the image claims to be real. The moment captured fills the frame, but the frame doesn’t quite add up… A quagmire of conflicting depictions and meanings is also inherent in Gauri and has kept the tradition alive. Its sense of unreal posturing and impermanence as captured by the photographs of Waswo and the colourations of Rajesh are thus a befitting filter to look at the Gauri Dancers through,” reads an excerpt from the essay by Pramod Kumar KG, Gauri Dancers (2019).

Waswo X. Waswo was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the U.S.A. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Center for Photography, and Studio Marangoni, The Centre for Contemporary Photography in Florence, Italy. The artist has lived and travelled in India for over 20 years and has made his home in Udaipur, Rajasthan, for the past 13 years. There he collaborates with a variety of local artists including the photo hand-colourist Rajesh Soni. 

Soni is an artist living in Udaipur, Rajasthan, who has become known primarily for his abilities to hand paint digital photographs. He is the son of artist Lalit Soni, and the grandson of Prabhu Lal Soni (Verma), who was once court photographer to the Maharana Bhopal Singh of Mewar. 

“Now for the first time, the collection will be on view in its entirety at Gurugram’s Museo Camera Centre for the Photographic Arts. The exhibition invites audiences to discover and engage with an ancient folk art form while also considering the increasing importance of oral narratives in democratising the historical process,” says Bhavna Kakkar, director of Latitude 28. 

The exhibition is on display at Museo Camera from September 18 to October 15


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