Tolstoy Farm - Archive of Utopia
Curated by Gayatri Sinha
27th April 11 - 19th May 11
Asim Waqif
Suhasini Kejriwal
Aditya Pande
Akshay Rathore
Anita Dube
Archana Hande
Arpita Singh
Bharti Kher
Gigi Scaria
Jagannath Panda
Mithu Sen
Ravi Agarwal
Riyas Komu
Vivek Vilasini

Tolstoy Farm, outside Johannesburg in South Africa is today part of a brick making company. A hundred years ago it was the site of Gandhi’s first invocation of peaceful resistance. Tolstoy Farm included in its founding three principle strains – Tolstoy’s ideas of resistance which had powerfully influenced Gandhi, the ‘gift’ of Tolstoy Farm by a South African architect Herman Kallenback --to be used as a commune, and Gandhi’s own initiative  and ideas. During Gandhi’s stay in South Africa for 21 years, Tolstoy Farm became the site of his cultural and educational experiments, anticipating in the process the founding principles of Sabarmati Ashram.

A hundred years later, from our vantage point, Tolstoy Farm presents the model of a particular world view, of economies and power equations. It was a training ground for Gandhi and some decades later, it served as an inspiration for the African National Congress: Nelson Mandela has written extensively on Tolstoy Farm as a locus that inspired his own resistance.  As a chapter of national history, it also represents India’s global influence outside the dominant tropes of the early 20th century, of the power exerted by the west or pan Asia.

Tolstoy Farm is also a utopia, one that Gandhi constructed and which served as a template for at least two nations to fulfill their historic destiny. As an ideal community, it anticipated a post colonial society, a model for ‘the good life’ as identified by one man.

The exhibitionTolstoy Farm - Archive of Utopia invites the artist’s reflection on the subjective leading philosophy of Gandhi, Tolstoy and Mandela, as thinkers who changed the way the world perceived  incarceration and freedom, caste and apartheid, capital and labour, independence and post colonialism. At the same time, it addresses the idea of utopia, as personal and private.  As social polity becomes more complex how does the artist interpret the principles of community, utopia and radical positions; how does he deals with the consequences of success and failure? Again, in a shifting world order, as India now acquires land in south Africa for commercial farms, or emerges as part of the BASIC or BRIC countries, how do we view new circuits of economies and power?


  1. Political Agenda of Education: a Study of Colonialist and Nationalist ideas, Krishna Kumar.

Gayatri Sinha