The Broken Promised

Is a political work by New Delhi/ Jaipur based artist Shirley Bhatnagar.

It was created specially for the Indian Ceramics Triennale 2018 and was shown at the Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.

The work is a humorous take on election promises and statements made by politicians from all over the world.

On display is an over the top dinner table, with fancy teapots, soup tureens and larger than life interestingly shaped tableware, however upon closer inspection we find that nothing is actually useable or functional.


A large imposing teapot seated on a pedestal has a drooping spout which negates its main function. Spoon and forks are rendered useless as they have spikes in them or the handles are so weak that they obviously cannot be lifted.

The artist chose 6 promises in the end from a long list to illustrate in the form of Dinner setting, using the main plate, the forks and spoons as the canvas. some are very famous and some border on ridicule.

The work was very challenging to create , as how does one show a statement in a 3 dimensional form, for example the promise that the “roads in Bihar will be as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks ” is very literal , it depicts a woman’s face where from her cheeks emerge these tentacle like roads , however the promise that ” cancer will be defeated in 3 years ” is much more abstract and shows eruptions in the plates, glasses and humanised forks and spoons.


Drawing upon her the anthropomorphic work the artist uses political caricature to breathe life into some objects and make a direct relationship between politics and dysfunction.


Cups with intertwined handles indicate communities held ransom due to war and hate mongering.

brothers in arms

Using the inherent nature of ceramics: its fragility, its breakability and the ease with which the material can transform itself into any shape.

These material aspects are used to describe or illustrate an election promise that has been broken or decisive statements meant to polarize one community against the other.

The statements collected are from as early as 1940 to present day, showing nothing has changed. The past, present and the future are all overlapped.

The use of text quoting exact promise makes the work explicit while the actual tableware which is created from clays and minerals all over the world becomes a strong metaphor.

Some of the promises are so ridiculous that they border on hilarity while others are frightening and it’s better that they should not come true. The year and the country are mentioned but actual names of the politicians or the political party are excluded.


Some very famous promises are part of this art work from:

“Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten!” translates as No one intends to build a wall (wall dividing west and East Berlin)

15 lakh rupay har bhartiya ke khatey mein , translates as “ 15 lakh rupees will be deposited into every poor Indian’s account”

To polarising statements like:

“ These immigrants are stealing all our jobs ”

“ Eleggetemi e farò espellere dalla capitale 20.000 rom”  translates as Give me your vote and 20,000 gypsies will be expelled from Rome.

“ All Irish are liars”


Or those which show complete disconnect from reality:


We will make Delhi like London

No one can stop Amethi becoming like Singapore

We will make Bihar like Japan

Hum Kashi ko Kyoto banaengey translates as- We will make Varanasi like Kyoto

“Eleggetemi e il sud Italia diventerà la nostra Florida”

Translates as -give me your vote and south of Italy will became our Florida


The work addresses the situation the commoners find themselves in, as a result of the political and societal structures they inhabit where the allure of a promised feast awaits them but is always out of reach.

2 thoughts on “The Broken Promised

  1. Dear Shirley

    I would like to send you the details of a sculptural commission in London and wonder if you could let me know your details so i can forward the information to you.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kind regards

    Jo Baxendale

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