“My only dream is to see a just and equal society,” says Siddhesh Gautam and for the first time, I experience no trouble believing this. When the person you are in conversation with is a strong proponent of Ambedkar’s philosophy that centres around the principles of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, it should not be hard.
Pune-based illustrator Siddhesh Gautam, who identifies himself as a storyteller and an ‘art baker’ and who we know as @bakeryprasad from Instagram is a passionate critique of the government who unveils his malaise with the fascist regime skillfully through his art. He hopes to portray the utopian society he dreams of and he doesn’t intend to do so by conjuring up a pseudo-reality, he says. His appetite for shaking the status quo by cultivating the consumers of his satirical works into thinking citizens, laden with themes of surrealism, derives inspiration from the Dadaist movement.
The Dadaist movement comprised of European artists, emerged in the backdrop of World War I’s climax. Dadaist artists rejected the aestheticism of modern capitalist society and expressed their displeasure with the evolving feelings of nationalism that led to war and violence through their anti-bourgeois protest art, defying any sense of rationality and logic. Gautam too takes on the role of Ambedkar who fearlessly questioned the Brahminic society that infuses well with the aspects of fascism and promotes conditions where the concentration of capital in the hands of a few is the norm, and brings out issues of caste inequality to the forefront.
What started off as an account for sharing visual imageries of his perceptions of mind has now culminated into the face of Indian digital revolutionary art. The elucidatory captions accompanying his graphic illustration are proof of Gautam’s commitment to his role as an educator. Being a student of history myself, who had one of her papers on Ambedkar and his philosophy, I can honestly confess that I learned way more through Gautam’s narrations of historical events that form a significant part of Ambedkarite movement’s timeline. He feels that it is his good fortune that his work is performing as a catalyst for furthering the Ambedkarite movement.
Persevering to take Babasaheb’s legacy to every household in India, Siddhesh Gautam is currently working on his upcoming project—a graphic novel on the Dalit movement spearheaded by Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Hailing from a Dalit family where Ambedkar, their emancipator and prophet is held in high regard, Gautam naturally sought inspiration from the first Dalit political and social reformer. Talking about his awakening as an activist he says,
“As I got more aware and inspired by the social fabric and the Dalit movement, it started to reflect upon my work. I had read or at least have tried to read Ambedkar as a kid too but it wasn’t very effective until now. As my skills of visual communication got better, it seemed the best way to share what I’ve been learning all this time. I am still learning the process of creating awareness.”
In a vibrant soul such as Gautam’s, you see an unbridled desire to learn all that the world has to offer. He professes his wish to never let himself be restricted to any one medium of art and explore the alternative of ceramics and sculpture and performing arts as well.
A graduate from NIFT Mumbai, the pioneering institute of fashion education in India, he now strives to impart his knowledge of visual designing among the lesser privileged students of Nalanda Academy in Wardha, Maharashtra. Founded on the principles of Babasaheb Ambedkar who emphasised on the education of Depressed Classes, Nalanda Academy coaches students from marginalised communities to pursue higher education. In a bid to build a scientific temperament among rural school, Nalanda Abhiyan Labs makes them familiar with advanced technology.
The bakery enthusiast who dons many hats effortlessly, witnessed the peak of his career when people began recognising him for his educational political art. His art is certainly not limited to expressions of what his self embodies and rather, reveals a passion for every activist, educator and artist standing unwaveringly against the powerful state to protect their ideals.
Gautam’s satirical art educates, provokes the human mind to retrospect and mocks the government’s ineffective and at times, detrimental policies with equal ease. The proficient baker of art continues to influence generations of people who house the same insatiable desire to witness the egalitarian society he aspires to see one day and he will be revered for igniting the spark of rebellion for years to come.