Bhubaneswar: Raghurajpur— a village in Odisha’s Puri where every household is buzzing with ideas. Colours, all set to be poured on the canvas into beautiful paintings, palm-leaves/wood/stone prepared to be carved, and toys made of cow dung set on display. This village, where houses reverberate with the rhythm of artistic moves, attracts innumerable tourists, both domestic and foreign, every year.
Keeping pace with modern times, Raghurajpur is slowly evolving and also its arts. The learning and exchange programme with international artists being organised every year has added impetus to it.
“Things have definitely started to change. These artists who come here to exchange ideas, bring with themselves new concepts from across the seas about contemporary and conceptual art,” said the founding member and director of Raghurajpur International Art/Craft Exchange (RIACE), Khitish Das.
RIACE, an NGO, had been conducting events every year since 2011 for art lovers across the globe to learn and exchange ideas and skills with the traditional craftsmen of Odisha.
Khitish further said young Pattachitra and palm-leaf carving artists are now working on different subjects. “Earlier, the paintings were confined to Hindu gods and goddesses whereas now, they paint more natural elements, animals, birds and trees. It is so much more popular now, even our Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted Pattachitra ‘Tree of Life’ to French President Francois Hollande,” he said.
Stating the reasons for local artists to adopt these subjects, Khitish said tourists or international artists are not aware of Indian mythological characters and are instead interested in nature-based paintings. “This has also increased the sales here,” he added.
Exposure to international dais is one of the most beneficial parts of the camp. “These artists from the USA, the UK, Australia and Ireland promote our art forms in their countries,” he said.
The regular interactions with international artists has helped them improve their communication skills. “Our artists are skillful, but not very articulate. They are much more confident now, and no longer shy away from interacting with visitors. Today, they are even active on social media,” Khitish said.
One of the guests from Ireland had even invited the artists for a show in Dublin to showcase the art forms of Raghurajpur.
Disappointed on seeing Pattachitra on clothes and walls, he said, “The royalty it possesses when done on patta in the traditional method of creating the canvas, hardening it and painting on it is lost with it being done everywhere. From mobile phone skin to sarees, people paint it everywhere but I think, Pattachitra must be left to its traditional abode. Subjects might change but the base shouldn’t.”