ODISHA: Three young artists are on a mission to explore Odisha’s rural roots. After a six-month-long journey to several villages, Sudeep Barik, Priya Ranjan Baral and Gopal Krushna Jena, this week brought a public art project ‘Think Village’ to the Odisha Modern Art Gallery and Utkal University of Culture here.
Be it an ancestral home, cattle sheds, traditional water tanks, Banyan trees, stone wells, green paddy plants swaying in air, the village goddess or the Bhagabat Tungi, the art project highlighted the way of living in Odishan villages which are getting engulfed by urbanisation and industrialisation.
Students of Department of Sculpture of Utkal University of Culture, the three artists created a documentary ‘Reviving Odisha Village Culture’, which was released on Monday, exhibited photographs, artefacts and folk instruments from various villages.
They had also roped in artistes to present folk dance forms before the visitors.
They visited villages in Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal and Bhadrak and made efforts to revive age-old practices like ‘Kandhei Bahaghara’, ‘Pala Bhuta’ and ‘Bhagabat Tungi’. ‘’The beauty of many villages has faded and the mud houses are slowly giving way to concrete structures. The cow dung smeared walls decorated with floral designs are no more seen,’’ says Barik, who documented the dying folk traditions in villages. He feels Odisha is the only place that has customs and art associated with every element of nature.
His friend, Baral is worried about the Bhagabat Tungi culture that is dying. ‘‘Bhagabat Tungis were the only place where villagers, both men and women, used to sit after returning from paddy fields. While verses of Bhagwad Gita were recited, it served the purpose of a get-together every day that strengthened the social fabric. However, television in every house has taken away the charm,’’ he says.
Similarly, Jena felt though adapting to modern times has become a necessity for villagers, efforts should be made to retain the simplicity and charm of villages. ‘’This exhibition is a step in this direction. We want people to see our documentary in their living rooms with their children and recall the simple pleasures of village life,’’ he says.
The project has been financed by Director of Odisha Modern Art Gallery and guest faculty of the department of printmaking in the Culture University, Tarakant Parida. The three who are a part of the Odisha Progressive Artists Group, have plans to travel to other villages in the state and document the rarities.