Sunday, 25 December 2016

Our 1st Painting Workshop at Chandidih

Artreach India and members of 'Udbhav' has decided to start painting workshop. So that, at the end of the Project, we could have wonderful paintings by tribal artists for an exhibition purpose.
Today on Dec.25th, 2016, we have started five days' long full-time Madhubani painting workshop with 12 regular members.
In this workshop, I (Avinash Karn ) personally want to push members to work over their thought process and finally passed whole day discussing how they can transform their inner world into visuals.
I was surprised with the result. Artists including young Nikita and others can imagine at such extent which was really difficult to transform into drawings.  But after many attempts, they drew compositions at satisfactory level.
Nikita want to see the point where earth and sky meet and finally she used Qutub Minar (as she believe, it is tallest tower in the country) to see the horizon.
This journey is quite interesting and I believe, the rest of these four days will be more challenging for me as well.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Artreach Project documented by Discovery Channel

'Udbhav', Community Art Project by Artreach India has been documented by Discovery Channel in the show #IndiaMyWay (Episode 10th) and broadcasts on Dec.18th, 2016. 

Village Chandidih and local artists has been included in this episode. Thanks to Artreach, once again for supporting 'Udbhav' and related artists. We are really excited to start our next workshop in the end of this year.
More on this facebook link: Click Here 

Some clips from Episode10th, IndiaMyWay

Friday, 16 September 2016

Maini Devi : Reborn to create her own world!

Good news about Maini Devi, One of the Participating members of “Udbhav".
Mark on her stomach
Maini Devi had treatment by an Ojha (the exorcist) on Blind Faith of the villagers and also because of unavailability of Medical facility in the area. Once Ojha applied red burning knife on her stomach to get rid of evil spirits, curses. It left only marks forever but couldn’t solve her problem (see photos).

When ‘Udbhav’ got support from friends, we started her treatment at RIMS Hospital, Ranchi. A tumor kind of muscle has been removed successfully by the team of proficient doctors.
A month ago, On facebook, I have posted a video of Maini Devi, working on a Mural Painting and asked for support for her medical treatment. I am lucky to having many supportive friends on facebook as well as in non-virtual world. And ‘Udbhav’ received supports from three cities- Delhi, Varanasi and Ranchi, for Maini Devi’s treatment. (Names have not been mentioned as per the requests)
I wish Maini Devi for quick recovery as I am ready for my next visit to Chandidih, Jharkhand where I will be working with her on the new wall.
Maini Devi painting a Mural in 'Udbhav'

Friday, 9 September 2016

Finding Life -The Story of Dharmnath

I went to Chandidih and connected all participant once again for mural work. As expected, every participants worked with the same spirit, they had shown during the execution of first Mural.
The weather was not appropriate and all of us found many problems in doing this mural. However rain couldn't hamper the dedication of learning and creation. On the last day, all of us had three new murals on three different walls.
Surface coating by the wall owner and participants (File Photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach_Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand.)

Drawing is the first step (File Photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach_Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand).
Maini Devi Drawing Tree (File Photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach_Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand.)
I am Guiding Dharmnath and others in Mural works (File Photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach_Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand.)
Young Participants working on Dharmnath story (File Photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach_Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand.)

We painted mural on Dharmnath wall titled, 'Finding Life -The story of Dharmnath'. This painting talks about different aspects of life that is surviving without medical facilities in the area. In one part of the painting Dharmnath is flying with 'Sanjeevni Buti' (Life giving herbs, as Hanuman brought for Laxman in Ramayana epic) for his perennially sick mother.
Dharmnath bringing  Sanjeevni Buti(Life giving herbs) for his Mother.

In other part of the composition, people are collecting herbs from tree and Vaidh (local doctor) suggesting plants and giving treatment to his patients. 
Vaidh (local Doctor) giving medicine to the patient.
(File photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand)

(File photo: Avinash Karn_Artreach Udbhav Project_2016_Jharkhand)

I observed the life of these local people very closely and translated them into visuals. First, I described subject with participants and then left all of them free to compose their own thoughts. Many times I help participants in drawings and sometime figure making. Freedom gives better result as the participants enjoy expressing their own story and thoughts. When they make mistakes, they themselves realize and correct it in their own way.

All right reserved with Avinash Karn.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Art in the Time of Adversity

"I first thought not to tell him everything as the area is very sensitive which figures prominently on the Naxalite Belt. But he was looking very innocent and talking very gently. His name was Dharmnath Munda."

I was waiting for an auto on the roadside having upset face loaded with lots of desperation. When no any auto came to pick me up to Ranchi, I resorted to Jatri Devi's shop where I had a small tea and cigarette to lighten myself.

In the summer months, tribes usually go to jungle to collect firewood everyday which they store for the whole year. This custom made the participants temporarily unavailable for our project. It was clear that I would not be able to paint on this visit. As Radhesh (a local supporter of Udbhav Project) suggested, I finally had to postpone 'Udbhav' for this month.

When I found this visit unfruitful, I thought of using my day in consolidating my accommodation in the village. I always wanted a place amidst the people I have been working with so that I am in position to study closely their life and get a proper picture of how much and in what forms art can be possible there. Another reason I don't want to station anywhere other than Chandidih is the need to make more time for the murals. Going to Chandidih and coming back to Ranchi in total is 70-75 kms which almost devours one fifth of my waking hours travelling to and fro. This constant travel in autos in the scorching heat of Jharkhand is very troubling for my health, my pocket and my time.

Radhesh came forward to help me to fix me up at his own house. He offered me a room in which my co-occupant will be his hen and chicken. However, he has promised to deprive me of this adventure. He is too gentlemanly to allow me this. He has a folding bed and he will change its damaged straps to make it sleepable. As per his promise, It sounds lot more easier in the future for me to stay in the village Chandidih and work without having to bother climate and transportational hazards.

Hen_chicken_Goat_ photo  by ArtistAvinash Karn
Hen, goat, pigs are the common pet in the area.

Even after the promise for my accommodation closer to the murals, I was upset. Because when you leave all your personal works to engage yourself with a community art projects and you travel a lot for the same, and then suddenly, when you land in the area you find no one around to participate in it. These situations give you immense frustration- something which is too difficult to handle all on your own. I was feeling great despair at this lost chance (read sans mural trip). Nobody was there to help me at this level. However I had to control myself, started convincing my heart that I would finally overcome these challenges.

It is about 40kms long Journey from Chandidih to Ranchi. if you are very lucky you may get direct vehicle to Ranchi otherwise you need to change autos at intervals. I again returned back to the road to catch an auto after paying Jatri Devi for her tea and cigarette. Within a minute, a young boy came towards me and asked-

"Aap hi gaon me painting karte hain na?"

(You are the one who is painting in the village, isn't it?)

"Yes", I replied and started to inquire about him. I first thought not to tell him everything as the area is very sensitive which figures prominently on the Naxalite Belt. But he was looking very innocent and talking very gently. His name was Dharmnath Munda. He must be of 16-18 years of age. He only came to me to learn art. As per our conversation, he loves to draw mountains, house, flora and fauna. But due to preparation for his high school examination and earning liabilities for his home, he never gets chance to learn art.

He is the sole breadwinner in his family that consists of an unemployed father, a perennially sick housewife of a mother and one younger brother who is too small to earn spending most of his time with his pigs- so he is forced to do both- study and earn at the same time. 
Dharmnath has some chicken and few pigs from which he makes money once in a while.

Dharmnath Munda (left), his brother (middle), myself (right)and Dhamnath's mother (back)

Dhramnath invited me to his house to see the walls of his house. I couldn't say no to him and followed him to his house. It was right next to the road where I was waiting for an auto. I found his house with three walls ideal for the mural and Dharmnath has already prepared it with white wash.

Selling pathetic stories has never been my concern but to write about Dharmnath is a more obligation for me. I must clarify that Dharmnath has not prompted me in any way to take up his story. Long after hearing his story and leaving Dharmnath, this kept haunting me. The image of his mother who has been continually struggling with ill-medication after failed trips to hospitals in Ranchi and around. She is suffering as a result of proper diagnosis and care- something which has already claimed lives in his family in the past. The hopelessness Dharmnath is undergoing started growing on me. 
Medical facilities are a major issue in the area. I have came across many people who suffer ghastly diseases and try fixing it up locally and often without much success.
However, I am an artist with a heart. I consciously know  that I cannot completely erase everything that troubles these people I am working with for this project. Still I would love to garner help for Dharmnath who is a real hero in my eyes- a true warrior surrounded by adversities of all kinds. His family is important to him. That is why he is fighting tooth and nail to find food and health for them. 

I just want to aid him in this effort. There is one small way I can begin and that is by including him in my mural project. I would appreciate if people come forward and try help him in any way they can. Help in any way is welcome. Inbox us if you have anything for him. Udbhav will remain deeply obliged.

(email- /or /or Cc to both).

(This post is written by Avinash Karn and edited by Shantanu Das).

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Thirst- Our First Mural at Chandidih

Artreach India presents UDBHAV, a mural project led by artist Avinash Karn with the tribal community in Jharkhand.(File photo: Avinash with Participating Members of Udbhav)

Among the tribal community in the village Chandidih there is an oasis of hope and joy tossing and turning, trying to transform the whole place creatively through  a  community art project, ‘ Udbhav’ (which literally means to originate: to begin to exist). I chose this name for my ongoing mural project because art has sown the seeds for a new creative life in this place.
Chandidih is about 40 kms away from Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand, India. I had first visited this village to conduct a Madhubani art workshop in 2014 (images from that workshop figure in my last blog post). I am very happy and excited that ‘Artreach India’ which has been working in and around Delhi, now presents a community art project in Jharkhand. I am thankful to Deeksha Nath, Director, Artreach, India who has shown her belief in me and selected me for this Community art grant, 2016-17.Before starting our mural project ‘Udbhav’ I was needed to convene a meeting with the future participants of the project and finally I did. 

Excited participants sketching with the help of samples

After the successful meeting on March 20th, 2016 in Chandidih, I came back to Varanasi where I live and work. I did a small research on the material. I met people who work with natural and earth colour pigments. I brought several kinds of colour, pigment and dye from the local colour market in Varanasi. I also had some Multani clay in my studio. So I researched and experimented with these materials.

Materials like pigment, stainer, acrylic, natural dye, Multani clay etc. were tested before work. 

I know that the style we work in is not indigenous to their culture and region. So I cannot manipulate or pressurise them to adopt our traditional Madhubani art even there is an art -practice called ‘Sohrai’ existing in nearby villages. But two years back when we had a workshop of Madhubani art with these people , this experience  left a strong impact upon  them. Finally I decided to introduce them with Sohrai art too. During the meeting, I had some samples of Sohrai art with me. I distributed these samples amongst the people present at the meeting. In my mind, I had an idea of mixing both of the art style, the Madhubani and the Sohrai together. But I was not sure of its successful execution because I was going to work with a group which was alien to the world of murals.

Kanjo Devi trying to draw peacock in Sohrai form. 

Peacock in Sohrai style decorated with Madhubani designs. 

This area is a tribal belt, lying amidst several hills. Tribal people are living happily with the greenery of nature. They also worship and take care of flora and fauna. Their life still depends more on nature than the government's facilities. They still live with the basic problems like water, electricity, hospital but are continuing their lives undauntedly despite the pathetic negligence of the government. When I arrived in this village I had a quick tour around the area with a local resident named Radhesh Oraon. I found there are some works done by the government and most of them are failures.There are hand pumps standing at several spots with literally no water coming out of them.

Useless hand-pump in Chandidih

Access to potable water in villages is still a major problem. It has to be fetched from long distances. This task is usually done by the women trekking on hilly-undefined roads, thorns etc. Along with the several life -taking dangerous elements like poisonous snakes, wild animals and many more. The place seemed so bleak and unattractive in context of the difficult lives the tribals are made to live. I immediately thought of bringing some colour to this set up. I wanted to gift them with an opportunity, an invitation to forget their sad stories of their daily life by investing in the world of colour and images. I was looking to create those pure moments of joy, beauty, creativity, camaraderie wherein the best of their life and experiences could reflect. On a personal note, I think art can also be a tool if used positively which can help one to rise above the adversities in life .These are the reasons I opt to create our first mural around this issue. 

Avinash is preparing the clay solution to coat the surface.

Surface was coated with cow dung and Multani clay

We started the first mural of project Udbhav, on April 5th, 2016. Women who often have to carry her baby on her back and a water pot on the head were excited to draw her experience in the painting. Please have a look at the images of the mural works which are in progress and see how females from almost every age group involved in expressing their experience. I was there only to help them sometimes in drawing, colour selection and surface making process.

Kanjo Devi trying to draw an elephant in Jungle and her boy is looking at her drawing very consciously. He may carry the painting work as a tradition to the next generation. 

Nikita Kumari drawing lotus.She is one of the most talented participating member of the group
Hands working for the lotus

Grand father is taking care of child while  mother is painting the wall

Rajani Kachhap on drawing. Some of the drawings were also done by me 

Drawing and colouring the mural.

Sunita Devi was in cover photo of our last workshop two years back. She is again in her classic pose. I love to see her working on the wall more than any artist I have seen in my life. 

The dedicated women in art practice? 

Our first mural in the project 'Udbhav'

Another side of the wall

Friday, 29 April 2016

Painting in a public space

Right after the Madhubani art workshop with the tribal people, we all have decided to continue their practice. Anand Dutta and Mangesh Jha took this group of art practitioner to the Jonha Water Fall, a nearby tourist site where they all painted the small pieces of beautiful wall mural. These were the amazingly out of expectations. I was in Varanasi and when I got these images of mural pieces, I was speechless. Only after a single workshop, these people developed their passion for art. Here are some pieces of their murals which was created in absence of any guide.