Portrait of Bibi Gulab Kaur, Oil on Canvas, 36"X48", 2013

The figure with a calm but strong and determined face, shown behind the bars, is of a woman, who dared to challenge the mightiest empire of the day.  Gulab Kaur (c1890-1931) was a member of the Ghadar Party, an organisation of the overseas freedom fighters for the Indian Independence, who not only sacrificed the prospects of comfortable lives for their own future generation abroad in the richer part of the world, but also were prepared to lay down their lives for their cause, by engaging in a direct and armed confrontation with the colonial power on the main land India. As narrated by her biographer Mr Milkha Singh Sanehi, Gulab Kaur, along with her husband was on her way to USA, when during a transit in Philippines, they met with some ‘Ghadris’. She and her husband felt compassionate with the revolutionary cause and wished to join them.  It is believed that instead of continuing their journey to USA as economic migrants, initially they both decided to return to India but at the agreed time for return the husband refused to go ahead on that path of revolution and rather preferred to carry on his journey to USA. This was a turning point in the life of the future female Ghadarite, when with confidence she declared to move forward on her own. They say she never again met her husband in the rest of her short life. Being active in Punjab, Gulab Kaur was instrumental in the distribution of arms and revolutionary literature. She was continuously monitored by the British spy agencies; therefore she remained on the move in her effort to try to dodge the oppressive regime. She was at last arrested and imprisoned in the infamous Lahore fort for two years where she suffered inhuman torture.Where the ‘colour-coded’ bars of The Cell are quite obvious manifestation as whom to blame for her imprisonment, the green-saffron-red flag, famous tricolour of the Indian freedom fighters and an image of the front page of the magazine “Ghadar” (revolt) in Persian script, I painted to establish the most natural relationship between the revolution and the revolutionary.

-Kanwal Dhaliwal