‘It is disheartening to see the descent of traditional art forms in our country’

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What are the themes that have been dealt with in the art exhibited at Lokatma?

The art and craft here deals with diverse themes like iconography, nature, village life, the celebration of seasonal festivities (parv) like Basant Panchmi and the universe as a whole. The works have a rawness and rustic appeal and a distinctive edge can be seen in each artefact. Whether it be Maithil paintings or sculptures of papier mâché, siki (golden grass), stone or carved wood; or hand-painted silk sarees and stoles, there is a unique composition in every picture. The exhibition is a celebration of seasons, legends and local epics which are depicted and recounted in the artworks. It is a representation of the lived experiences of the villagers of Bihar.

How do you ensure the continued preservation of the work of rural artists and craftsmen through this initiative?

None of the pieces here have been brought on a consignment basis. All products have been purchased outright at the market price from village-based individuals and cooperatives. Instead of coercing any person to draw or paint a particular scene or idea, we leave the option to everyone to portray their thoughts, feelings and creativity. This ensures that there is no lack of enthusiasm in any creation, while also maintaining novelty in every composition. Also, most of the art here is a blend of synthetic as well as natural paints procured from herbs, the bark of neem and peepal, hibiscus flowers, lamp black and katki (bamboo stick). The Maithil art form is a wonderful combination of fine art and traditional sciences. I have been very fortunate to receive contributions from all castes and communities of the villages.

Is there a particular category of audience that you plan to market to?

I am a traditionalist and it is disheartening to see the descent of traditional art forms in our country, how negligent people have been towards our customary crafts. This exhibition is an initiative to revive one of those art forms and create a niche market. I call upon youngsters to come and explore the exquisite collection presented here. The articles have been priced reasonably keeping in mind the festive season and to cater to a large audience, while also maintaining the quality of every work of art. We hope to conserve our cultural heritage without the involvement of any outside agencies.

The collection appeals to all – across nationalities, religions and ethnicities – since the paintings evoke human feelings and universal emotions like love, union, peace and harmony as well as relationships and scenes from  daily life. Art transcends boundaries and Dehati Kala Khazana symbolises exactly that.

There is immense minuteness and detailing evident in every work of art here. What is the reason behind this?

The interesting part about Maithil art is that it is a family art form – everybody in the family works on a single frame. The likhai (outlining) is done by the parents and the filling is done by the children. It is a way of way of bonding with family members and passing on their traditional practices. The intricately woven siki sculptures and home decor items become potential income generators, especially for women. Also, each painting is signed by every painter who has worked on it, bestowing an identity to the artisans. It is delightful to get calls from my craftsmen in Bihar enquiring about the response to their artwork in the urban market.

Dehati Kala Khazana is on until 1 November 2013 at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts from 11 am till 8 pm. Gauri Varma can be contacted at 9810025948 and lokatma@gmail.com

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