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Journey into the roots

Rini Dhumal's `Ancestral Tapestry' is a novel allegory of her past. At the culmination of the search, she has a work, which is a limited edition of 50 bound books; each containing 16 etchings and one wood cut numbered and signed by the artist with a corresponding text.

NOSTALGIC JOURNEY: Rini Dhumal reminisces her past.

THE NOSTALGIC terrain is a part of our psyche that rests sublime and is indicative only at times. Yet the curiosity to walk this path is a temptation springing out of a well-established comfortable and `meaningful' existence and could be all consuming.

Rini Dhumal - painter and printmaker who was in the city recently to participate in the All India artists camp organised by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology seemed to be on a high, satisfied and happy as she ended her two-year sabbatical from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda with `Ancestral Tapestry' - a novel allegory of her past.

In this context, it would not be wrong to remember Alex Haley, author of Roots - a systematic and intense search for one's own identity and origin. The masterpiece, he produced, is attributed not only to his passion but also to his profession as a journalist and writer. In simple terms, he could do a great job because he did what he was best at -- writing.

This is what Rini has done. Her search to understand herself and reach her roots `taking it to an eclectic understanding of cross-cultural, cross-territorial issues' is not only a conscientious journey of an artist but also a contribution to the field of printmaking which despite its rich resource of being able to reach to a wide audience - apart from other things, is being traded for the more popular and `in demand' medium of painting.

`Ancestral Tapestry' is a limited edition of 50 bound books each containing 16 etchings and one woodcut (one print in which wood is used as a metaphor for labour and human dignity), numbered and signed by the artist with a corresponding text. The project, works on three levels.

The first level is the personal quest of the artist to reach her zamindari household at Itakumari now in Bangladesh and revive childhood memories of the religious rituals, the grandeur of the zamindars, the child widows and the agony of the partition.

AT WORK: The artist at the CCMB art camp.

The second level is the artist's socio-economic and political concerns during the period - the cruel Hindu caste customs, the decaying feudal order, the plight of the unwilling indigo farmers, the Hindu-Muslim divide and the presence of Gandhiji and Noakhali.

The third level is the technical expertise of the beautiful prints, complete with `perfect' printing.

Weaving the three factors, Rini successfully links her past - the place from where she had been displaced, which now lies in another land and creates an ambience of the pain of alienation and the trauma of events that are stained with blood in the annals of history and the glory of her feudal childhood.

The prints are in tune with Rini's nature of using complex techniques of visual graphics and printing -- of photographs transferred on to zinc plates, finely etched, plates worked on, where Rini gives shape to her thoughts, the computer, the technique of super imposing multiple plates, the alluring technique of `a la pupae -- combine to become dexterous prints with colours in many layers, lending a versatile feeling to the medium of etching.

Rini has indeed had the luxury of exploring a bygone habitat, firmly linking herself with the wandering notes of remembrances and finally emerging as a person `reinvented' and `reinforced' in her present milieu.

The `Ancestral Tapestry' and a series of inspirational paintings that came out of this journey into the past - as art critic Sumitra Kumar Srinivasan says have "culminated in a deeper understanding of herself.

Rini Dhumal has now come full circle by retrieving a part of her being and recognising that she carries her roots within herself and therefore, takes charge of making the matrix of her whole being again."


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