Saturday, November 27

Patachitra’s brush with the pandemic

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As the pandemic continues to mercilessly strengthen its grip over people across the globe, it has now started reflecting in the country’s folk art as well. The ‘babu culture’ of the 19th century Calcutta just had a brush with the current pandemic in each of the 14 frames of Kalighat Patachitra that artist Anwar Chitrakar has painted during the lockdown. “There are over 100 families in my village, Naya, in Midnapore. All of them are patuyas (artists), who sing and tell stories through their paintings. I wanted to play with the style and stand out,” said Anwar, who has contemporised his paintings with a touch of humour and experimentation. In one of his paintings, an old man is seen saluting a young couple wearing masks. In another, a scared middle-aged couple covers their faces as they talk to a cop. Even the well-being of wildlife is reflected in his humourous series. All of Anwar’s family members are painters, and he learnt the art from his father. “All my forefathers used to sing and paint. After trying out different professions, I got back to painting. We always choose current topics. Maoist attacks, chit fund scam, environment hazards and several other news topics have been a part of my paintings. I even tried to adapt the figure style of Bankura, Purulia and Bihar patachitra frames and added a dash of colour palate from my village,” said Anwar, whose coronavirus patachitra is currently being showcased at a digital exhibition.

While Anwar’s paintings follow the 19th century Kalighat pata-style figures, several other traditional patuyas of Naya have integrated the pandemic in their frames and songs. Swarna Chitrakar, a patuya in her fifties, has composed four scrolls reflecting the COVID-19 scare. “While one of my paintings had gone to IIT-Kharagpur, another one was displayed at an exhibition in Delhi. I am currently working on two more. One depicts the story of coronavirus and dengue, and the other one shows how people are reuniting with their families, taking a forced break from their otherwise busy lives, due to the lockdown,” she said.

Manu Chitrakar has painted a series of patachitra frames around the pandemic. While one shows how the lockdown has affected everyone, irrespective of their religion, caste and gender, another one shows the collective prayers from different communities. One of his works also pays tribute to the doctors working relentlessly on the frontline. While elaborating, he said, “Patuyas usually capture the current time in their artworks. We have done that too. These tales will continue to live on.”

Source:Times of India

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