Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Communicating the voices of those who believe in and practice art

Arthart is a new bi-annual journal of the arts by the Arthshila Trust, an initiative by Takshila Educational Society–an inclusive and immersive platform for creating and sharing ideas centred around arts.

Launched October 2022, the journal aims to be an inclusive space where “the arts commune, with themselves, and each other. Where the voices of those who believe in and practise the arts can be heard, communicating across differences, borders, divisions of genre.”

 The opening piece is a captivating conversation with the artist Orijit Sen and Sukanya Ghosh, titled Drawing by Design: An Artist Reflects.

Orijit Sen is a celebrated artist, and is considered to be one of the first graphic novelists in the country.

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Growing up in Mt Abu in the mid-60s, Sen tells us of a time when comics were the only form of visual storytelling available to him. He recalls the adults dismissing comics as a corruptive force, until the arrival of Amar Chitra Katha on the scene. He remembers how trading his hand drawn comics for printed comics like Phantom with his friends encouraged him to make more comics of his own. In some ways, this was his beginning.

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The interview chronicles the multitude of influences and developments to Sen’s artistic career. He talks about his time as a student at NID and how it shaped his problem solving skills when it came to design. Later, when he moved to New Delhi in the 1990s, he opened People Tree, a centre for design, and made India’s first graphic novel River of Stories. It is here you can see the roots of Orijit Sen as an activist, using art as a tool for social justice.

The intricate Khalsa Museum mural, as Sen explains in this interview, gave him a chance to become a student again in his 40s. By studying miniatures for the mural, he picked up a combination of styles which he meshed into his existing practice.

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Sen shares the intention behind his new project Comixense–a powerful and meaningful magazine for young people. Describing it as a collaborative enterprise, he explains the process of creating the magazine, with the aim of building a platform for comic creators, writers and artists.

When asked about his Instagram account, Sen said that the posts he creates on the platform are essentially a practice of addressing the issues that are plaguing India today. By making images to express anger and frustration–emotions resonating that of many people who follow and share his work–with a tinge of humour, Orijit Sen considers being a ‘memer’ as essential to his artistic practice.

Another great piece from this issue of Arthart is Driven to Roots–Today’s Naga Artist by Anungla Zoe Longkumer.

Anungla Zoe is an artist, filmmaker, writer and advocate for waste-free sustainable living. She is the author of Folklore of Eastern Nagaland (2017) and the editor of The Many That I Am–Writings from Nagaland (Zubaan, 2019) a collection of short stories, poetry and illustrations by Naga women artists.

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The essay looks at the evolving identity of Naga artists and writers. It shows how these artists, in their creative pursuits, are shedding the underlying trauma from colonialism and conflicts. They are, through their practice, finding ways of dealing with the anxiety of feeling “displaced from their roots.”

She refers to the caravan of culture, an idea used by the writer Akum Longchari in his book on self-determination, to explain the past of the Naga. Akum tells a tale of a caravan going along its path which gets hijacked by ‘outsiders’. This hijacking is violent–it imposes its language and faith on a people that in time lose touch with their own rich heritage which existed largely in oral traditions. This hijack inevitably changes the Naga people and how they practise their art.

However, Anungla Zoe draws our attention to the ways by which the Naga creatives of today are attuning to their cultural traditions. Iris Yingzin, for instance, uses shawls, hand woven by Naga women, on which she draws using indigo paint. This is inspired by the shawls worn by Naga headhunters in the past. The celebrated Naga creative Nise Meruno, the international concert artiste, drew on a Naga folk song when he had to compose his first piece. The result is a melding of western classical harmonies and Naga folk melody and vernacular. Artist Temsüyanger Longkumer’s piece Tattooed Memory is his own body cast draped in a warrior’s shawl and with face tattoos donned by headhunters. The piece at once represents his history, culture and memory.

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The Naga continue to have a connection to their past in “some intangible yet palpable way, a deep sense of belonging, keeping them on the path of artistic tradition.” This shows the reckoning taking place across the board. The Naga caravan of culture may have been interrupted, but it carries on, forging a new path for itself, explains Anungla Zoe, using new tools and mediums; a cultural resurgence in newer contexts.

Some other pieces included in issue 1 are:

Trying to Transform the Quotidian: The Mad(e) in Mumbai Approach by Anjum Katyal, Rock-baaji as Art: Reactivating Public Spaces by Sumona Chakravarty, Shedding the ‘Skin of Separateness’: The Naqqals and My Theatre by Neelam Chowdhry, Writing Theatre Histories–Distributaries and Tributaries by A. Mangai, The Last Clay Toy Maker of Lucknow: An Interview with Mahesh Kumar by Noor Khan, Wandering Ghosts in the Machine: Notes from a Virtual Reality Project by Anjua Ghosalkar, and Out of Time–Some Thoughts on Music I Have Loved by Anita Mehta.

The last section of the journal is dedicated to books on the arts, published by independent Indian publishers. This issue focuses on three recent publications on dance and theatre by Speaking Tiger. 

In this issue of Arthart, by introducing critical essays, the journal brings life to the discourse around art. The pieces are relevant in that they are representative of today’s diverse artistic practices.

Arthart journal costs Rs 750 per issue. The next issue is expected to be published in 2023. It is edited by Anjum Katyal.

 

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