Friday, November 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India

N C R   S T O R I E S


Treasure trove of folk art
Garima Pant

India - the land of diversities and varied cultural heritage and the originator of many spiritual and cultural ethos. It is here that we can find the perfect example of unity in diversity, where scores of different cultures and traditions live and complement each other in perfect harmony.

A perfect example of our rich and varied cultural heritage can be observed at an exhibition of folk, tribal paintings and sculptures, organised by Lalit Kala Academy in collaboration with North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Allahabad, till November 16.

In India the wealth of folk art is unique and exotic. Certain folk arts have remained exclusive to women like Khobar in UP, Madhubani in Bihar, Chowk Purna and Sanjhi Devi in Punjab and embroidery work on cloth by Saurashtra women. Most of these are done on floors and mud-laden walls in innovative designs and figures.

The district of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh is the home of figurative Kalamkari, the art of painting cotton fabrics with a kalam, a sharp-pointed bamboo stick, padded with hair or cotton tied with a string on one end to regulate the flow of colour. The colours used are symbolic, themes sacred and the narrative running along a horizontal plan.

With the gold leaf encrusted paintings there is also the related tradition of Thanjavur glass paintings, where the entire painting is done on the rear surface of the glass. The Pichhwai paintings are the colourful painted cloth draped behind the deity in the temples of the Pushti marg, sect of Vaishnavism. These breathtaking and scintillating works of art are a treat to the eyes. Even the miniature paintings that involve unending precision and work possess beauty undefined. The awesome marble paintings are extensively used for decoration of interiors and exteriors and are based on the Raag Raagini. And they are done in the Mughal and Kangra styles. The

‘Jhoti’ is made by tribal and rural folk of Orissa. Generally drawn on the wall or floor, it is made to establish a relationship between the mystical and the material. Almost without exception these arts are focussed on warding off evil, ushering well-being and safety, and aiding festivity.

Manipuri paintings are based largely on the Radha-Krishna Raas-Leelas. All the paintings exhibited here take the admirer into a world of their own giving a rich insight into our culture.

Ebony elegance

An exhibition of African art is on view at the Visual Arts Gallery till November 17. ‘Rachitart’ - brings the original Egyptian papyrus paintings depicting Egyptian culture and history along with ebony wood sculptures (Makonde Art) and Kenyan artifacts. This exposition is the result of the efforts of Rachitart’s Sharmila Grover. The Makonde sculptures range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 7, 500 and include a range of products like giraffes, masai couples, ujjama figurines (family trees), busts, heads, abstracts and ebony candle stands. Makonde is one of the tribes hailing from South Tanzania.

People from this tribe are internationally famous for their intricate carvings based on love, life and God. For centuries, they have been carving figures from ebony wood that is why these carvings are also known as Makonde carvings.

A unique feature of these carvings is that it is always carved out of a single log of wood without using any nail or glue. These carvings require minimum maintenance, as there is no polish involved because of the natural fine grains of wood. Another positive factor is that ebony wood being so hard; termite cannot cause any damage to it. Apart from these sculptures in ebony wood, ‘Rachitart’ is also presenting wall pieces that are framed, offering a fascinating three-dimensional effect.

Apart from the Makonde art, the exhibition will include Kenyan artifacts (Rs 200 to Rs 1,200) that stand in stark contrast to the black ebony because of the beautiful colour combinations and decorative elements. The products in this category range from walking sticks, masks, giraffes, couples, tribal figures, wildlife salad servers and wildlife napkin holders.

But the most amazing presentation of Rachitart is definitely the Egyptian papyrus paintings (Rs 3,000) that are a delight to possess and certainly a collector’s item. Papyrus plant, long cultivated in the Nile delta region of Egypt, is collected for its stalk or stem, central plyth, cut into thin strips, pressed together and are dried to form smooth, thin writing surface. Papyrus sheets are amazingly durable, elastic and 100 per cent natural material.

Says Astha Malik, spokesperson, Rachitart: “The USP of these products is that people are looking for something new to add to their interiors. They have had enough of crystal and ceramics. African art is unexplored and fits in beautifully into the contemporary minimal look that people are looking for. Also they are so classy yet so affordable.”

Contextual significance

An exhibition of paintings by the great masters of modern India art is on view at the Art Konsult till November 20. Modern Indian art is an interaction between European colonisation and aesthetic values. The essence of modern Indian art is the process of absorption and assimilation.

Initially, however, renaissance naturalism imported by European colonisers, with a very different artistic philosophy from India, caused a rupture in India’s artistic practice and created a conflict. The impact of western colonialism was first felt among the artists of Kolkata. The history of modern Indian art began with early adoption of western academic art. It was followed by the reaction of Bengal School’s nationalistic art and their search for “authentic Indian” imagery.

Consequently, modern art in India developed in a complex pattern, oscillating between unrestricted embracement of western art and reaction against it, heightening the cultural tension colonialism endangers.

Thus, to bypass this eternal conflict, the progressive group in the South affirmed their allegiance to international modernism.

The next generation of artists stood poised between indigenism, who contextualises their work and modernism, which provides them with an international language to participate in the global dialogue. In this exhibition, the Indian artists have invariably attempted to resolve contradiction into dialectic.

Memoirs of Jagjit Singh

His music is loved by one and all, be it a person of any age or gender, caste or creed. His soulful and poignant music touches the heartstrings of all, alike.

The ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh launched his pictorial biography titled ‘Beyond Time - The Ageless music of Jagjit Singh’. His journey into the world of music began in the year 1976 with his album titled ‘The Unforgettables’. And since then he has released more than 35 albums.

Born in the year 1941, he learnt music from Ustad Jamal Khan of Seniya Gharana.

He has won several awards including Sahitya Academy Award in 1998, for popularising Ghalib. The Madhya Pradesh government also honoured him with ‘The Lata Mangeshkar Samman’ in 1998. A professional to the core, he takes an interest in the making of each of his albums and is involved in selecting the ghazals, to composing the music and all the other related minutes details.

This versatile artiste along with his equally talented wife, Chitra Singh, has created various melodious compositions. He is truly one of our talented ghazal artiste of our country.

Organic imagery

An exhibition of new works by the Delhi-based artist Manisha Parekh titled ‘Multiples and Measures’ is on display at the British Council in collaboration with Nature Morte till November 20.

Deftly coloured paintings with water colours, graphic black-and-white works, using ink and pictures made by overlapping translucent papers with cut-out shapes - all of them explore organic imagery. Her other works involving two and three dimensions employ hand-made paper, strings, twine and pigments to develop works where the images are dictated by the material used. Small-scale individual pieces are elaborated into a series of multiple units and are presented as one large, single work, resulting in complex sets that present her previous styles of working.

She has been awarded fellowships by the Inlaks Foundation, the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris and the Heinrich Boell Stiftung Studio in Bonn, Germany.

She has her works mounted at various galleries across the country and abroad. She is a founding member of the Khoj International Artists workshop.


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