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