The Dying Art
Walking by the pavilions of the 31st Surajkund Mela, I could feel the beauty of cultures from all around the world blending in the fest, showcasing their aesthetic and enigmatic creativity. A very harmonious and pleasant tour at the mela brought me to rethink my belief of a world without boundaries, joining hands in the name of art. The occasion enhanced the essence of artists and their creation, being appreciated by people coming from different places and backgrounds. However, one such stall got unnoticed, and I could see how the artist was losing her hopes. A petite lady in her late 30s, was organizing her artwork in a secluded section of the mela, arranging her paintings in a handmade wooden frame. Most of the people passing-by didn’t get the privilege to notice her exquisite artwork. Her penury led to her being glued to an isolated pavilion.
There were a huge lot of craftsmen selling their Madhubani paintings but Sheela Devi’s portrayal of the same had a hint of renaissance. After talking to her and observing her paintings I realized why her work strike differently to me – she had depicted real life incidents in them. From belonging to a neglected tribe in Jharkhand, getting married at the age of 15, losing her first child in a miscarriage at 16, to witnessing the death of her husband at 20. Her expression was so powerful and difficult to interpret that an uninterrupted attention was required to understand her artwork. “Unbelievably beautiful”, were the two words that came out of my mouth after reading her paintings. The paintings were invaluable.
She said, “There are a lot of people here selling Madhubani paintings depicting women and their lifestyles, but I can assure you, the real depiction of a woman in our country will only be found through my hands”. True, indeed. The hardships of a woman living in areas where they are suppressed by the patriarchal society, and how one has to overcome the obstacles cannot be understood by a lot of people today. She looked like an artist with a mission- to sell the reality of womanhood in India through her depictions.
I wish I had the kind of money to buy one of her paintings, but she was generous enough to give me her phone number so that I could buy her work whenever I had the cash. Artists like her need more appreciation and attention not only in our country but all around the world, creating Madhubani paintings without the help of a brush, and having the courage to not only sell their work in exchange of money, but to communicate through them.