A village and its canvas

A village and its canvas

A group of artists came together to portray the life of a community in a village and created magical works of art. Chandrashekar Damle sheds light on this creative endeavour in Kanakamajalu of Sullia taluk`.

If you head to the village of Kanakamajalu in Sullia taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, you will find fetching art works in the homes of a majority of the villagers. Perhaps, it’s the favourite pastime of the villagers, you think? No, the art works are a product of the ingenious initiative by noted water colour artist Mohana Sona.

With an aim to preserve the rich cultural aspects of folk life in art form, Mohana organised an art camp right in the village and brought in artists from Chamarajendra Academy of Visual arts (CAVA), Mysuru. The camp called Suyoga was organised from April 11-17, 2015. ‘Su’ implies the best and ‘yoga’ stands for coming together of all favourable things at a time. The artists from CAVA stayed in the houses of Gowda farmers, a big part of the village population. Sponsored by Karnataka Arebhashe Culture and Literature Academy, the project has redefined the notions of art, folk styles and life, in general.

The perfect medium

For Mohana, paintings are the best medium to depict a community’s cultural elements and this attitude reflects in his paintings. Every work of art created as a part of this workshop portrays the elements of the local culture and the story of the
villagers.

Mohana chose to focus on the salient aspects of the lives of the Arebhashe Gowdas of Sullia taluk. Speaking Arebhashe, a variant of Kannada language, Arebhashe Gowdas are known for their distinct cultural life that has evolved by living in abundant nature with agriculture as their main ccupation.

Mohana approached the community for financial help with this creative project and they responded positively. The Yuvaka Mandala of Kanakamajalu also came forward to host the event in the off season for agriculture. This was the Yuvaka Mandala’s second attempt at art camp, after failing in 2009 due to financial constraints.

The main objective of Suyoga camp was to document the entire cultural and socio-economic life of a community. The artists wanted to show people what made this community distinct. In this principle, all senior members of the community came together to identify and plan the subjects for art production. Since the artists were new to the life of these villagers, they underwent orientation for the first two days. They learnt about the daily lives of the villagers and their activities.

Most of the art subjects focused on nature, agriculture, celebratory events such as marriage, community worship and  livelihood activities like ploughing, harvesting, de-husking of paddy and so on. Artists portrayed the houses, cow sheds, traditional utensils, landscapes of areca nut farms and forests in their works. Some of the activities were demonstrated for the artists to get a better understanding of the concept.

They participated in the celebration of Vishu Kani, the solar new year for the community, and depicted it in detail. Colourful art works depicting demon worship, a marriage party and ceremonial fight catch your attention. The detail with which the magical hero folk dance ritual is depicted will capture your heart.

Some senior artists such as M G Kaje, Nalini Kaje, Ananda Bedrala, Chetan
Puttur also joined the camp to give a realistic touch to the art works. Mohana also created a painting of his own. The artists lived separately in 12 houses of the village and had a week’s time to showcase their prowess.

Thus, the whole week was impregnated with creative activities, filling every
moment with curiosity as the villagers watched for the new pictures to appear on canvas. Now, the paintings decorate  the walls of the houses. To Mohana, seven days is too less of a time period to capture the lives of such communities on canvas. He also believes that the involvement of the community adds a new dimension to the final art product.

Laxminarayana Kajegadde, the man ehind the endeavour and a member of
Yuvaka Mandala says that another such camp to capture the changing landscapes of their village is high on their agenda.

Thanks to the efforts of the artists, the villagers are true upholders of their own
culture. Today, the art pieces occupy proud spaces on the walls of the homes of these villagers and add to the overall beauty.

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