Cyclone Fani tears down artists’ village in Odisha

Many pieces of art in heritage hub have been damaged

May 08, 2019 10:56 pm | Updated 10:56 pm IST - RAGHURAJPUR

A woman of Raghurajpur village shows her artwork that was damaged in the cyclone in Puri.

A woman of Raghurajpur village shows her artwork that was damaged in the cyclone in Puri.

Rarely has artist Bijoy Mohapatra, 40, remained idle in recent memory. But with Cyclone Fani tearing down this artists’ village, part of the coastal district of Puri, Mr. Mohapatra and his ilk is struggling to come to terms with the damage.

When the cyclone made landfall on the morning of May 3, two front wooden doors of his house could not withstand the ferocity of the wind and his entire body of work was exposed to the lashing rain.

“We found ourselves helpless before the intensity of the storm. Instead of shifting the ‘Pattachitra’ to a safer place, our priority was to save our own lives,” said Bijoy.

One rain-defaced 5ft x 3ft sized Pattachitra, a traditional cloth-based scroll painting, narrated the Krishna Leela while another told the story of Ganesha. It had taken six months each for Mr. Mohapatra and his father, Banamali Mohapatra, a master craftsman, to complete them. The two damaged Pattachitras could have fetched them more than ₹20,000 each. As he showed more soiled artworks, his father’s face looked emotionless. “To recreate these artworks, we require motivation as well as funds,” the father lamented.

About 10 metres away, Brundaban Swain wad waiting to show what he had lost to Fani. “The Pattachitras are known for its intricate designs. Once torn, one can neither mend it nor sell it. What we have lost is energy, patience and earnings,” said Brundaban. Almost everyone in the village with 140 families of artists have different stories to tell.

Raghurajpur has been identified as a heritage village because of the traditional works ranging from Pattachitra to paper mask and wooden carvings to dolls. The village, which usually witnesses an overflow of tourists who queue up to buy the artwork, has not see a single tourist since the day Fani struck.

“The input cost is likely to jump. For example, the palm trees have been damaged severely and those who supply palm leaves wil now charge double the price. Similarly, it would be difficult to find traditional adhesives,” said Mr. Mohapatra .

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