Exhibiting Gandhi-King ties

REMEMBERING PIONEERS

If boundaries can be transcended through art, this one surely does. ‘Journey Towards Freedom’, opened at the American Center recently and will conclude on February 28.

Reliving past : Visitors at the exhibition.

The photographs displayed during the exhibition depict Martin Luther King’s love for India and the inspiration he drew from Mahatma Gandhi. “Without Gandhiji, we would have had no King. We are indebted to Gandhiji,” said Lydia Barraza, a writer and senior officer at the US embassy.

The exhibition also brought out aspects of King’s and Gandhi’s lives that were common to their mission of non-violence. King’s cry for equal rights for America’s coloured population was crafted by Gandhi’s view on black people.

Gandhi urged his American visitors to try civil disobedience and King first came to know of Gandhi during a weekly college lecture by educator Mordecai Wyatt Johnson at Morehouse College where he studied between 1944 and 1948.

The group visited Shantiniketan, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Agra. The exhibition concludes with a reference to Obama administration, since the US President is both a product of the civil rights struggle and an admirer of Gandhi and King. Photographs taken on a 1950s trip and later, along with the video of King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech are also featured.

“The message was so electrifying that I left the meeting and bought half-a-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works,” King said. It changed King’s life forever, marking the beginning of his “journey to freedom”. King said in 1959, “To other countries, I may go as a tourist, to India, I come as a pilgrim.”

With a grant of $4,000 from Christopher Reynolds Foundation and $1,000 from the American Friends Service Committee, King, wife Coretta and a friend Lawrence Reddick visited India in February 1959, a few weeks after King’s 30th birthday.

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