The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata regains some colour
- After poetry, stage set for debut display of paintings

Name: Mamata Banerjee
Special interests: Protecting human rights
Favourite pastime/recreation: Music and writing

The bio-data on Indian Parliament's official website needs to be updated, and fast.

Next week, 250 paintings and sketches by the Trinamul Congress chairperson ' with the peacock as leitmotif ' go on display in the first-ever exhibition of her art.

The portrait of a politician, a bit pale after the string of poll setbacks, as an artist is gradually gathering colour. 'I am not an artist. I am just a vagabond dabbling in colour,' says Mamata.

But this is not her first brush with the arts. The MP from Calcutta South has earlier proved her prolific artistic impulses with essays, poems and lyrics.

Broadcast of songs penned by Mamata on long-distance trains may have been even more short-lived than her tenure as railways minister, but paintings have a considerable shelf life. As do her previous works as the writer of songs, poems, children's books and political essays.

The week-long exhibition at Swabhumi, starting December 23, is titled '25 hours in a day' (detractors, of course, would snigger that Mamata, now almost shy of the public eye, has all the time in the world to dabble and doodle).

'I do all my paintings as a hobby. I have no formal training,' she points out.

Nature features prominently as a theme in the body of work, completed over the past five years or so. Canvases on birds (the peacock -- her favourite ' appears in 30), harvest scenes and glimpses from an adivasi village will be on show. Deities ' Ganesha, Kali and Durga ' also appear. There are quite a few abstracts as well.

'Two months ago, some well-wishers gave me the idea of holding an exhibition' I did not produce the work with any exhibition in mind,' Mamata takes care to point out.

The display at Swabhumi opens with an auction for select guests, after which members of the public can visit every day between 2.30 pm and 8 pm.

Three works will be auctioned by amateur auctioneers ' mayor Subrata Mukherjee, quiz master Derek 'Brien and a physically challenged girl. The rest of the paintings would be on sale, starting at Rs 1,000. Part of the proceeds is to go to unnamed charities.

Unlike her prose, much of which speaks of her ideology, there is, apparently, nothing political about her painting.

'This is not an exhibition for art critics, it is for those who want a glimpse of a public figure's shy, private space,' feels 'Brien.

Can canvassing of a different kind bearing the Mamata stamp add a fresh coat to her fading political fortunes'

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