The human leg is a recurring motif in Jithinlal NR’s work. The leg and feet are the embodiment of the lowest rung of an oppressive caste system. Through layered and unsettling drawings, visual narratives, installations, and paintings, Jithinlal draws our attention to the representation of marginalised and oppressed communities. The emphasis on the self-representation of Dalits stands out as a major theme in his work. His art demonstrates the new movement of marginalised people narrating their own stories. For Dalits, it is about claiming their own space, history and means of expression, a right denied to them by colonial and Brahmanical structures of India’s caste-ridden society.
In ‘Wounds and Stars’, a painting featuring a lean farmer with one leg swollen due to filariasis, Jithinlal, in a close-up of the same leg, shows wounds visualised as cracks. For the young artist from Kerala, the swollen leg represents caste oppression. But the farmer in question is also seen staring stonily into space, perhaps into the future, indicating a sense of hope and emancipation from the drudgery of manual labour.