Tina Modotti

Tina Modotti, photographs of Pandurang Khankhoje, his agricultural experiments, and the Escuelas Libres de Agricultura, Mexico, 1924–28, gelatin silver prints, Collection of Savitri Sawhney, installation view, ​Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

The agronomist, freedom fighter, and political revolutionary Pandurang Khankhoje was born in 1886 in British colonial India. Profoundly impacted by the Great Famine of 1896–97, Khankhoje remained acutely aware of the link between social freedoms, self-determination, and basic sustenance. After travelling and gaining education as well as military training in Japan, the United States, Turkey, Syria, and Germany, he settled in Mexico. Khankhoje and his compatriots abroad formed the Indian Independence League, the Pacific Coast Hindustan Association, and the Ghadar Party also known as “the Party of Insurrection” striving for India’s freedom.

In the 1920s, Khankhoje met Italian photographer, actress, and fellow revolutionary Tina Modotti in Mexico City as well as legendary muralist and painter Diego Rivera, who went on to depict Khankhoje in his mural at the ministry of Public Education, sharing bread at a table with poor people from the world over. Setting up laboratories to study plant genetics and thirty-three free schools of Agriculture—Khankhoje’s contribution is evident in Modotti’s detailed photographic studies on the cultivation methods of corn and wheat, visionary field experiments, and peasant gatherings. Documenting this heightened phase of solidarity and social strife, Modotti’s images encapsulate the social tableau around conflated revolutionary lives during the Mexican Renaissance.

Posted in Public Exhibition