Melbourne, May 4: With the exhibition of Mahatma Gandhi and his role as an immigrant himself, the Victorian government has churned the wheel of developing its ‘Victoria’s India strategy’ launched earlier, this year.

The exhibition is open for visitors at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne CBD, since last month.

“The Victorian government is currently promoting and developing their India strategy. The conversation to bring this exhibition has been going from last year and it just aligned with the government’s current message which really recognises the eminence contribution of the Indian diaspora here in Victoria,” said Rohini Kappadath, the general manager, Immigration Museum.

The exhibition depicts Gandhi’s story of freedom struggle against the British highlighting his core values of non-violence and equality. But the focus is on his life as an immigrant in South Africa, as suggests the main theme of the exhibition ‘Mahatma Gandhi: An Immigrant’.

Kappadath said, “The exhibition has a much larger mission that goes beyond the story of Gandhi alone. We are showcasing how when an immigrant moves to a country, the circumstances he face.”

She further said, “Gandhi faced a lot of discrimination in South Africa. But what did he do about it; he actually stood up and built his voice in those circumstances. Instead that particular event shaped his life.”

“This is very much a call to migrants to ignite within themselves that spirit of Gandhi… and when we talk about that spirit, we talk about his values of satya-graha, non-violence and civic disobedience with passive resistance,” she added.

To make this exhibition a reality, more than 1,000 photographs and archived footage were brought from Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum in Hyderabad.

The exhibition showcases collection of objects like Charkha (spinning wheel), sample of turban made in cotton that Gandhi used to wear. The printing press machine from Gandhi’s publication house is also on display – which reminisces the time in 1903 when Gandhi started running his own newspaper ‘Indian opinion’ in South Africa.

There was also an elaborate display on the historic salt march led by Gandhi which garnered most interest amongst exhibition viewers.

An impressive 360 degree display of the Sabarmati Asharam was also on display.

Kappadath said, “We got immense support from Museums Victoria to support us embark on the collaborative journey with the Gandhi Digital Museum of Hyderabad. This is an absolute expression of collaboration between two countries and of two museums.”

Right on entering the hall where the exhibit is set-up, one could hear the soft voice of Gandhi taking about non-violence in his speech.

Mahatma Gandhi – an Immigrant exhibiting at Immigration Museum, Melbourne

Kappadath said, “I think it’s a matter of pride for Indians living here because there is a broad cross-section of our city… coming to view the exhibition and not just Indians.”

Birad Rajaram Yajnik, Curator, Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum, Hyderabad enumerates on the story of a “man who practiced peace, truth and non-violence, in a digital format”.

The exhibition opened on the historic date of April 5, a day when Gandhi shook the Empire with a pinch of salt”.

71 year old JoAnn, a visitor to the exhibition said, “We have been hearing stories of him since our school days. It’s now that I am getting to see his images when he was young, wearing coat-pant. The display is minimal and very precise. It’s not too much, but it’s enough.”

But 61 year old Tarini Casinader originally from Srilanka, is aware of Gandhi and his stories; yet laments the next generation’s ignorance of Gandhi.

“My generation is aware… because our parents have been telling us. Hence I can at least relate with the information on display here. Sadly, my daughter doesn’t even know who Gandhi is. I am planning to bring her here soon.”

About 6 six schools are on visit to the Museum each day.

One of the teachers leading students from a rural Geelong suburb, Teesdale primary school said, “It’s a beautiful chance for kids to know about Gandhi and his philosophy.

“His stories have still not lost its appeal and are very much relevant to present day.”

At an extensive Community Day with a suite of public programs including holiday and student activities, was held on Sunday. The star visitor to the exhibition included Ela Gandhi, renowned peace activist and granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.

Born in South Africa in 1940, Ela has continued her grandfather’s activist legacy, being instrumental in the struggle against Apartheid and was one of the members of the United Democratic Front who met with Nelson Mandala shortly before his release from prison.

Ela Gandhi teamed with Jon Faine, ABC Radio and Birad Yajnik for Floor Talks on Gandhi’s largely illuminating life.

by Shakti Thakur with R. VenuGopal


Gandhi: An Immigrant

Immigration Museum , 400 Flinders St, Melbourne

Showing until July 15, 2018


feature image – Jon Faine, Rohini Kappadath, Ela Gandhi and Birad Rajaram Yajnik, (L-R) ‘In Conversation’on Mahatma @ Immigration Museum.

Source: Museums Victoria / Photographer: Rodney Start

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