Gowhar Gora makes artworks out of small stones, reflecting the pain of people
Pellet guns may have stopped inflicting eye injuries after the summer 2016 uprising, but Gowhar Gora, a pebble artist from Chanapora, Srinagar is giving life to small stones, depicting the ‘lost eyes’ of Kashmir.
Gowhar, 42, a veterinarian by profession, believes that as an artist he’s using stones and turning them into art pieces to show the plight of youth blinded by pellets through the summer of 2016.
“This is my way of speaking about the situation and showing how people suffered in 2016,” says Gowhar.
“So many eyes have been lost, and as it’s said ‘pathar ki lakeer ki tarah’ to denote the destiny that can’t be changed, same is the case of those eyes lost in 2016,” he rues.
Gowhar says he was a ‘normal’ person till he turned 36. The artist in him was born late. “I began art work in 2010 when I was posted in Leh,” he says. “It just took over my mind and since the past 6 years I have been doing it.” He carries little stones everywhere – even to his office.
Earlier, in 2011, he joined hands with some of his art loving friends and came together to form “Heal Kashmir with Art”. They organized an exhibition that year showcasing the artworks of various artists.
Last year, after Hizbul Mujahedeen Commander Burhan Wani was killed along with his associates on July 8, protests broke out across the valley and rallies and processions followed. Hundreds of people clashed with government forces. Subsequently, over15000 civilians were injured and about 1100 of them hit by pellets in their eyes, partially or fully blinding many of the injured. Unofficial figures have put the death toll at 94, which includes two policemen.
By inscribing pellet scars on stones, Gowhar shows that even stones could “feel” the pain and loss of vision.
Among the people totally blinded by pellets last year was14-year-old Insha Mushtaq of South Kashmir’s Shopian district. Insha wanted to become a doctor. One of the installations made by Gowhar is named ‘Insha’. “She has become a symbol of pain and tragedy of 2016,” he says. “As an artist I portray it by giving life to stones.” The installation depicts “Insha” in her mother’s lap.
For Gowhar stones are infamous for providing an excuse to government forces to fire pellets at protestors from their pellet guns. “Was Insha holding a stone or did she pelt one,” he asks.
“Mouj Kasheer” is another installation which shows a small stone which is painted red and placed in between two large stones. “The two big stones are India and Pakistan and the small one is Kashmir with blood all around,” Gowhar points out. Explaining the artwork, he says in the tussle between the two nuclear powers the people of Kashmir are caught in between and suffer the most.
Recently Gowhar and his friends travelled to a village to collect some stones and pebbles for his art work. While they were selecting stones in the village, an old man came up to them. “Days of stone pelting are over,” the old man told Gowhar, “why are you collecting stones now?”
“There’s a tempest around us and people are waiting for a Noah’s Arch to save them,” he says while showing another stone installation which he’s named Noah’s Arch.
Gowhar is planning to have an exhibition of his artworks which he calls “pebble art”. “The money made from the exhibition will be given to those youth injured by pellets,” he says.