The art of life

Updated - November 01, 2016 06:57 pm IST

Published - September 15, 2016 09:20 pm IST - Delhi

The walls of a village in Jharkhand depict the everyday stories in the language of Madhubani, courtesy a community art project.

TELLING THEIR STORIES The local artistes at work.

TELLING THEIR STORIES The local artistes at work.

The inhabitants of Chandidih in Jharkhand are painting their village red. In this small village in Khunti district which is part of the Red Corridor, a clutch of 20 villagers led by young artist Avinash Karn have been painting the walls in their area for the last few days. The concern is not just to beautify their surroundings but to highlight their struggle so subjects like society, culture and life have crept into these murals.

The unavailability of water and their struggle to get it by walking in the wild for kilometres; lack of healthcare; deforestation and local festivals of the community have made it to their canvases in Madhubani style of painting. The tribals were not familiar with this art form. A friend of Avinash working as a social activist in the area called the artist along with his sister Shalini Karn to have a Madhubani workshop. “The seven-day workshop was attended by a mix of people who were farmers, labourers and housewives, who had never even held a pencil in their life but learnt it quickly and produced works like professionals,” says Avinash. He adds that some of them wanted to learn it properly in order to earn a livelihood. “But sadly, we couldn’t provide them with market connection. Still, many of them continued to practise it and our friends supported them with art material.”

In 2016, Avinash received a grant from Artreach India for a community art project ‘Udbhav’ and he zoomed in on Chandidih. The artist decided raise the level of training a bit higher in order to prepare them for commercial projects. “Another advantage of these roadside murals is to get them attention from outsiders and the government,” explains the contemporary Madhubani artist.

Their everyday stories catapults into a compelling narrative by the colours and form of Madhubani. “We painted four women with water pot carrying her baby. One of them is pregnant as well. This is what you see when you cross the area and this is their life.”

The artist tells us that the second mural is based on the true story of a local young man Dharmnath Munda, who has to take care of his sick mother. “He has to bring medicines from a vaidya . There are many stories like Dharmnath who suffers due to lack of medical facility. In this painting, Dharmnath is flying like Hanuman who flew to bring Sanjeevani for Laxman. In another one we have depicted how outsiders come and force locals to cut trees. In one part, tribals are celebrating their festival and worshipping the trees, in the other the same tribal people are cutting trees as they are forced by the leaders and industrialists.”

Along with Madhubani, Avinash tried to merge the techniques of Sohrai painting tradition prevalent in Hazaribagh area with Madhubani. “An experiment which also succeeded to an extent,” says Avinash.

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