'In 1989, the activist, actor, playwright, and poet Safdar Hashmi, was fatally attacked by political thugs during a street performance in Delhi. The murder sparked widespread grief and outrage, and the formation of the Delhi-based collective Sahmat. Created to build solidarity among artists, intellectuals, and activists on questions of conscience in current politics, Sahmat has emerged as a vital platform to promote artistic freedom and secular, egalitarian values throughout India. 

The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989—a companion to the exhibition of the same name presented by the Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago—relates the history of this remarkable organisation through case studies from a rich range of interdisciplinary projects and performances. Vivid images and original and new commentary from participants, organisers, and scholars situate Sahmat within both the contemporary art scene in India and the country's political sphere. This beautifully illustrated volume thus documents compelling works of contemporary art while meditating on the power of art as a tool for social change.' (back cover)

Held from February to June 2013, the exhibition includes works in a variety of media from over sixty artists including Manjeet Bawa, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Zarina Hashmi, Rummana Husain, Bharti Kher, Pushpamala N., Nalini Malani, Gigi Scaria, Nilima Sheikh, and Vivan Sundaram.
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Chapter headings

Introduction - Jessica MOSS

A Journey of Resistance - Ram RAHMAN


Sahmat's Beginnings

The Founding of Sahmat

Safdar Samaroh and Artists Alert

National Street Theatre Day


Children's Books

Artists Against Communalism

Artists Against Communalism Campaign

Images and Words

Slogans for Communal Harmony

Ayodhya: Demolition of the Babri Masjid and After

Anhad Garje

In Defence of Our Secular Tradition: Posters with Sufi-Bhakti Poetry and Contemporary Art

Hum Sab Ayodhya


Tribute to Gandhi

Postcards for Gandhi

Gift for India

Art on the Move

Ways of Resisting

Reasserting Secularism

History and Culture

The Making of India

Making History Our Own

History in Education

Free Speech and Defending Husain

For Free Speech

In Defence of M. F. Husain

For Husain at 94

Husain @ 95

Publications, Design, and Graphics


Design and Graphics


An Experiment with Political Theory - Prabhat PATNAIK

Song of the Unvanquished: Beginning(s) and Continuities of Sahmat: A Brief Personal History - Madan Gopal SINGH

Mind the Gap! Or, What Does Secularism Feel Like? - William MAZZARELLA

Secular Artist, Citizen Artist - Geeta KAPUR

Signature and the Secularity of Artistic Subjectivity - Karin ZITZEWITZ

Accumulations in Space and Time: Sahmat's Gifts for India - Rebecca ZORACH

The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989
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The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989