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Navjot Altaf

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1949, Meerut, India
Lives and works in Bastar and Mumbai, India

Navjot Altaf is mostly known for her video installations and photomontages. Collaborating work with various strata of people, she has attempted to change the outlook of public art. Her close association with craftspeople in Bastar has led her into projects that reach out beyond art galleries. With her themes revolving around feminism and real life stories, Altaf has immersed a social aspect in a number of projects.



Graphics, Garhi Studios, New Delhi


Diploma in Fine Arts and certificate in Applied Arts, Sir J.J. School of Arts, Bombay




VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Selected images      View all



Installations show a constant practice of incorporating the peripheral elements of the society

Navjot Altaf’s works have frequently represented the subaltern, collaborating with the peripheral sections of the society, including the indigenous crafts people from Bastar, sex workers from Sangali and auto-rickshaw drivers from Delhi. She attempts to create a space of representation for those who do not appear in the mainstream narratives.
Explaining the context of her video installations Touch IV, 2010, Altaf points out that the purpose is not to be the voice but to relate to, to listen and understand the context of those less heard. Apart from being the fundamental characters of her various video installations, Altaf has also encompassed them in the complete process of making art, giving due credit by titling them as collaborative projects. Through the direct involvement of the common people, engaging them within a political, social and economic impetus, she strives to go back to the true essence of public art.

Navjot Altaf, Touch IV, 2010, 22 monitors video installation, installation still

Several installations navigate around the central theme of struggle in its different forms

Navjot Altaf’s art has frequently centered around the themes of pain, alienation and violence, embracing a plot of struggles in life. A number of installations in the form of sculptures and videos have witnessed the perpetual consciousness of Altaf as being a tool that can capture and reproduce the structure of struggle cited at several levels. Palani’s Daughter, 1995, based on female infanticide, Lacuna in Testimony, 2003, revisiting half-forgotten torments from the Gujarat riots and Images of Women painting the social injustice and violence against women, have all aimed at, boldly and not pessimistically, the misery of all involved.

Navjot Altaf, Lacuna in Testimony, 2003, still from 3 channel video installation with 72 mirror pieces.

Exploring the boundaries of art in terms of mediums as an approach to art

Navjot Altaf started out with paintings and sculptures but she was nowhere near restricting herself to the traditional methods of making art. Her certainty in using new tools was evident when she shifted to video installations at an early stage. In her approach of using videos and photography as a medium to display art, she not only broadened her realm but she also found the range of possibilities that the computer offered as amazing and gratifying.Bombay Shots’ and ‘A Place in New York’ have marked her approach of using unfinished photoshoped images as tools to convey her perception.

Navjot Altaf, A Place in New York, 2010, digital photomontage archivally printed on llford gold fibre silk paper.

Bastar, a small village in central India, has had a major influence on Navjot's works

After her initial visit to Bastar with her colleague, Jaidev Baghel, Navjot Altaf has consistently been inspired by the lives and culture of people of the region. This inspiration has led to initiation of several projects including the much acclaimed The Blue Lady Sculpture. The work illustrates ways in which religion uses superstition to preserve social hierarchies. She has not only done collaborative work with adivasis from Bastar, but the people have time and again found pivotal roles in her installations. Water Weaving was an installation based on a legend she came across while in conversation with a weaver named Sukhman, who is also the protagonist of the film. The video Water Water also found its roots in another Bastar based project ‘Nalpar’. Chawal ki Kahani and Between the Subject and the Object are just examples of how Altaf’s projects have been enveloped by Bastar in all its entirety.

Navjot Altaf, Chawal ki Kahani, 1997-98.

Art activism is the driving force behind her creations

Navjot’s works attempts to spill out from the white cube confines of gallery spaces, and move into public spaces. Her works often have significant social and political overtones, making a move towards a reformist agenda. She carefully orchestrates her works with a goal of reform, spreading awareness about social injustices and political malice, to evoke change in the process.
Bastar as a site for such collaborative works for Altaf can be recognized as the site that led to the culmination of these projects. The children of Bastar have seen a transformation in the open spaces, meant to be their meeting places, in the form of ‘Pilla Gudis’ (children’s temple) while at the same time the ‘Nalpar’ project has not only been aimed to beautify the water pump sites but to also create shelves for women to place their vessels on. The ‘Yamuna.Elbe’ project envisioned to make the two rivers ecologically sustainable, testified Altaf’s dedication to use public art for reforms. Her project ‘Delhi Loves Me?’ was screened outside the Khoj workshop for non-art spaces, and viewers other than gallery owners and collectors.

Navjot Altaf, "Nalpar" (handpump site) project, 2003-04, drainage culvert, Bandhapara, Kondagaon, Central India.

Navjot Altaf, Delhi Loves Me?, 2005.