Like her ancestors, she is used to retelling mythological lores, folk tales and social sagas in live performances. Now Swarna Chitrakar, one of the best-known scroll painters of her generation, is using her art to lend a hand in the fight against Covid-19.
The fifth generation patua has composed a song and drawn a pata on coronavirus, focusing on its ferocity and urging people to follow guidelines. A clip of her performance, recorded five days ago by her youngest daughter Nupur, is doing the rounds on Facebook.
“When I heard about the virus, I wanted to do something. I don’t have money to donate. So I thought of contributing to the fight by what I can do so that people take the virus seriously,” said the 50-year-old from Naya village in Pingla, West Midnapore.
The virus has hit the adjoining East Midnapore district, the borders of which, she says, are sealed now.
It took her a day to come up with the song. Then she started painting. The red coronavirus figure — with eyes, nostrils and a thick lip — on the pata looks nothing like the electron microscope images. “It is a product of my imagination,” she said.
The song and the scroll painting end with her reposing faith in the Lord who, she says, has given scientists and doctors the intelligence to beat the virus.
Before the video was shot, only her neighbours had heard and seen her latest creation. “Because of the lockdown, I could not recharge my phone. A teacher from IIT Kharagpur, who called to check how I was doing, kindly made the online payment so I could get my phone working and upload the video,” she smiled.
Though there are about 400 patuas in the area, few can compose original songs, said the artiste, who has earlier done patas on contemporary issues such as AIDS, Nirbhaya gang rape and murder and the 2004 tsunami. “Now that it is on social media, perhaps some of them will pick up my song and draw their own interpretations of it,” said Swarna.
While she would be hurt if her imitators do not give her credit (“They often claim my songs as their own”), she would be happy if the government uses the song for an awareness drive.