The works of a restless Dalit mind: Understanding Prabhakar Kamble’s art.

By Shiva Thorat,

The history, and the baggage, of the caste system in our country have always been felt the most by the lower castes, and it is a spectre that continues to haunt them even today. For Prabhakar Kamble, a 31-year-old painter from Mumbai, it was no different. In school, he was discriminated against by upper-caste teachers and classmates; now he fights against the hegemony of Savarnas in the world of Art. But Kamble, a resident of Belapur in Navi Mumbai and a second-generation migrant, has found a way to channel all he feels through his works, some which were exhibited at Mumbai’s famous Jehangir Art Gallery. But while most artists go ga-ga over their works being displayed at the Gallery and are also given ample coverage by media, Kamble’s story was slightly different. Barring one local Marathi newspaper, no one talked about his work.

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photographs of prabhakar kamble

It could well be because unlike Savarna artists, Kamble refuses to toe the line. A graduate of L S Raheja School of Art in Bandra and done Diploma in Art Education at J J School of Art Mumbai, Kamble is well known for the portrait of paintings and sculptures and has a ‘clientele’ that most artists would not even consider working for. In Mumbai, Unions and people marching for a cause always call him to paint symbolic paintings of their march. Recently, he painted for the march conducted in the memory of Dalit Scholar Rohith Vemula, which was organised by various organizations of Mumbai in March 2016.

photographs of prabhakar kamble

Kamble, in a conversation with, explains the rationale which both inspires and explains his work. “I agree with the philosopher I. A. Richards who said, ‘The creation of the image is the representational process of elaborating sensual sore.’ We can express the experience and the complexity of it through those images. The termination and reincarnation of the image happen at the same time, though roots of context still remain of it. Hence, I feel it is very close to me. I like the process of personalisation of that art form,” he says.

photographs of prabhakar kamble

Kamble believes that the Human is pivotal to his creations, along with also being the source of energy. “I never found faces around me; I found the tendencies and tendency of faces to be a vast topic. The human, their lives, their tendency…faces are like the sign posts.”

“Restlessness is at the centre of my art. It provides me a boost. Some tendencies make me restless; I have to express them otherwise they won’t stop scratching me. My recent works are the result of such restlessness. Being allergenic of social disorder has become a trait of mine. I always try to break all frontiers of express through these two-dimensional and three-dimensional impressions,” he says.

photographs of prabhakar kamble

But breaking the social disorder came early to Kamble. Since he was from a lower caste, Kamble has, since his schooldays, felt and protested against the monopoly of upper castes. No wonder, his works continue to be ignored by the Brahminical society.

Kamble believes that he is trying to uplift the lower strata of the society through his art form. Through his art, Kamble is trying to scream against the oppression and resist the hierarchical position of his forms. His restlessness is entrusted and served to the society. As an artist, he believes that he must show the helplessness and discontent of oppressed. This also explains why discontent and restlessness is the central point of his art.

photographs of prabhakar kamble

According to him, “attack on rationality is the history of the religious hegemony on the oppressed”.

Kamble thinks that in contemporary life, restlessness is a routine. He developed his art to show the restlessness of ordinary peoples, and this factor also separates him from his contemporary artists. “If a Portrait is showing the outer life of ordinaries, there is something wrong with artists and that form,” he says. “Portraits should show inner life and the struggle of mind-brain and heart. The audience not only believes outer beauty but the inner anarchy of the artists,” he adds.

Kamble also explains why his works go beyond the dichotomy of beautiful and ugly. “There is a conflict if I have to paint ugly as beautiful and beautiful and beautiful as ugly. Actually, it is our mentality that we decided ugly and beauty. I want to paint for the rationality of restlessness and to show the oppression. I am not interested in showing ugly and beauty,” he says. ‘Every portrait is a poem and every poem is a portrait, they did not have a difference but both have the source to show the restlessness,” he adds.