Sohrai artist hogs camp spotlight

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  • Published 18.10.11

Internationally acclaimed and self-taught folk artist Parvati Devi moved her nimble fingers on the canvas to showcase sohrai — the peerless art of the hinterland — at Akaar, the three-day art camp being hosted at Jharkhand Kala Mandir in Morabadi, Ranchi, since Sunday evening.

The 50-year-old woman from the nondescript Bhelare village of Bishunpur block in Hazaribagh, whose paintings have been appreciated by art connoisseurs in India and abroad, had the company of 14 other artists from Jharkhand, Indore, Delhi and Patna at the camp. It is a platform propped by the state art and culture department for folk and contemporary visual artists.

At the tender age of 14, Parvati began her eternal love affair with sohrai — a rural art form that uses natural colours and combs, instead of synthetic colours and brushes, traditionally to adorn walls of mud houses in villages during Diwali and other festivals.

Parvati’s canvas compositions prompted her able participation in art camps and fairs not just in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Calcutta, but to the faraway lands of Australia, Germany, England and Paris.

Hum videsh gayein hai jahan meri kala ko logon ne pasand kiya. Achcha lagta hai sab logon se milna (I have been abroad, where people have appreciated my art. It feels good to meet people),” Parvati said, pouring her imagination into an assorted palette of laal mitti (red soil) and black and green colours extracted from leaves.

“I have got the opportunity to showcase our traditional art form and I am grateful to my state and country. Otherwise, we would have remained confined to our tiny hamlet, where 100 folk artists like me are endeavouring to promote this dying art,” she said, adding that she was mingling with contemporary artists at this camp to make her art more expressive.

A woman of substance, Parvati does not wish to sit on her laurels. She is looking forward to attend more art camps in the future. “I have participated in 22 art exhibitions in India and abroad. After getting such exposure, I feel this dying art of sohrai can be revived.”

Parvati said her best moment in life so far was when she got an opportunity to stay for six months in Australia during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “Everyone there appreciated my work and even purchased my paintings. It was once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.” To add glory to her crown of achievements, 50 paintings have recently been sent to an art gallery in Sydney.

Apart from participating in arts camps, a documentary film, One-Ear Elephant, based on her life was directed by Australia-based director Kelly Ally four years ago and broadcast by BBC. Calcutta-based director Mithun Parmanik is also making a 20-minute film on Parvati, the shooting for which was held in September this year.

If Parvati was the centre of attraction, other artists too shared the limelight with their acrylic and oil canvases. “We are really glad to be part of this camp. Every artist is making two paintings, which will either decorate government offices or be kept at Hotwar museum. The art and culture department is also planning an exhibition after the camp ends on Tuesday,” said Ranchi-based artist Ramanuj Shekhar.