How did Gandhi use visual iconography to illustrate his role in the Indian independence movement.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Gandhi is seen as a transcendent figure that was able to bridge the world of man with the world of the divine.  Certainly, this is valid to a large extent.  Yet, where some of the Mahatma's true genius lies is in how he was able to utilize the media.  Specifically, Gandhi understood the visual medium in terms of print and newsreel was beginning to emerge.  In order for him to make his imprint on this reality, he was going to have to ensure that he provided something visually that would make him distinction.  When the other leaders of the Congress party appeared in British dressed best, he dressed in a loincloth with a walking stick.  When other preferred to travel by car caravan, he walked.  In these images, Gandhi understood that his image would be that of the small, frail man challenging the mightiest empire in the world.  Gandhi made sure that he provided the media with photo opportunities to display the struggle on events such as the Salt March or the moments when he was arrested.  The visual nature of him spinning the threads to make his own clothes, rather than where British spun clothes is another example of how he was able to use visual iconography to illustrate his own role in the Indian independence movement.  Always surrounding himself with Indians or in the state of nature, the visual story was that Gandhi was Indian independence.  Even though he had befriended a variety of Europeans in his struggle, he was mindful that being photographed with them on a consistent basis could take away from the visual nature of his message.  Gandhi never missed the chance to display his own struggle in a visual manner that showed him being the fundamental agent of change.  In this, he made himself the fundamental face of change in Indian independence.


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