An exhibition of drawings, prints and paintings by Savi Sawarkar at the Augusta Savage Gallery, curated by Gary Tartakov in 2010
Take, for example, “Manu,” a two-by-four foot drawing of a monstrous face, with manic malevolence gleaming from the whites of the eyes. The Expressionist style of slashing strokes crosses easily from East to West. But the content mystifies Western eyes and challenges traditional Hindus.
Manu was a great ruler of ancient India, still revered by most orthodox Hindus. As Tartakov notes, the Code of Manu, which defines caste roles and relationships, plays the same cultural and symbolic role that the Ten Commandments serves in Western tradition. But Manu, benevolent lawgiver for the elite within the caste system, is the same Manu that condemns outcasts to lives of persecution, poverty and humiliation. From where Savarkar stands, Manu is truly a monster.