This half circle of salt that features marble sports equipment is part of an installation by artist Sarindar Dhaliwal in the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The cricket bat, field hockey stick, and badminton racket represent sports that were brought to India in their modern form by British colonizers although a game very similar to field hockey was played in the 17th century in the Punjab state of India called khido khundi. Khido referred to the woolen ball and khundi to the stick.
India has become a formidable force in the world of cricket. India’s elite took up the sport in order to build relationships with the British and its popularity spread to the general population.
This led the way for the creation of some superstar cricketers and India’s international success in the sport.
Why is the sports equipment lying on a bed of salt? In 1882 India was under British rule and the British passed a Salt Act which banned Indians from collecting or selling salt. Salt had to be bought from the British and they added a heavy tax to each purchase.
In 1930 to protest the salt tax Indian leader Gandhi led a salt march. Thousands of people walked down to the sea to collect salt from the salt flats there.
Gandhi was arrested after he bent down to pick up a small lump of salt. Gandhi’s actions led to peaceful protest demonstrations all over India. The British police force responded and in the end, some 60,000 protesters were arrested. Although India would not gain independence from the British until 1947 the salt march and the civil disobedience it inspired gave Gandhi a seat at the table in the discussions about India’s future.
Salt and sports equipment. Two symbols of India’s past as a colony of the British but also symbols of a future when India would control its own natural resources and make its own name in the sports world.