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When puppets and birds represent reality

During his sojourns with various tribal communities of central and eastern India since 1998, artist T. Satyapal made friends with several artists and Botruram, a Muria Gond sculptor, was one of them. The friendship grew thick. "Often, we would have one of the local brews for lunch. Then, he would clamber up some tree to pluck fruits which we would savour. He used to tell me that he would become a bird in his rebirth and would perch on the foot of a hill where flowers would resemble flames and the stars would be afloat. When his son died, he would join the father and they would live like friends. The Muria Gonds firmly believe in life after death, so they never feared death. Each of them would wish he/she would be a bird, a snake, an aeroplane, a car after death. You would come across hundreds of memory pillars for the death if you travelled across their settlements in Bastar, each pillar etched with pictures of the deceased person’s after life persona," recalls Satyapal, chairman of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, whose solo show ‘Puppets and Birds’ got under way in Fort Kochi on Sunday. Years later, in 2014, the central Lalit Kala Akademi [in which Satyapal was a regional secretary then] organised a sculpture camp in Bhopal for 100 artists, 60 of them from tribal communities. Satyapal had invited several of his artist-friends from various tribes. "But Botru hadn’t come. I asked Pandi Ram Mandavi, another artist, who told me Botru had died," says Satyapal, who made active intervention to ensure that the compensation paid to tribal artists – which till then was a pittance – was at par with that of mainstream artists. A progressive lot Satyapal approaches tribal life without prejudice and with a great deal of admiration. "We tend to brush aside their knowledge and culture thinking they aren’t a progressive lot. But, for me, it is the other way around. If living harmoniously with nature, without the existential crises that are gnawing at our society, could be the paradigm of progressive living, they live that life. We should not look at them from the prism of our skewed sense of morality and knowledge, though," he says, citing the practice of Ghotul, bachelors’ home where adolescent men and women chose their partners at will and lived without jealousy. The series featured at the show has the artist trying to give a three-dimensional quality, painting on carved surface. His puppets, all wheeled to depict regulated mobility, are shown fleeing en masse (done in the wake of the recent ‘Go to Pakistan’ jibe); have a decapitated woman religiously following her murderer (to show the sorry state of women); and play the balancing game! The exhibition will be on till September 15.
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>> Sesquicentennial Celebrations are on for the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Ramanand Chattopadhyaya, also known as the ‘Father of Indian Journalism’, Social Scientist, thinker and the first Principal of K.P. College . At Anglo Bengali Inter College , Talks organised on ‘ Journalism, Literature and Culture’ in collaboration with Sahitya Academy and Cultural Ministry , Govt. Of India; on Nov 16,2016.

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>> Allahabad Museum, in collaboration with Bengali Education Society, Indian Press, Allahabad also held an exhibition on ‘ Ramanand Chatopadhhyaya, Personality and Work’ which was inaugurated by Prof. Tapti Mukhopadhhyaya, Ravindra Bhawan, Vishwabharti, Shantiniketan.

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>> Sesquicentennial Celebrations are on for the 150th Birth Anniversary of Sri Ramanand Chattopadhyaya, also known as the ‘Father of Indian Journalism’, Social Scientist, thinker and the first Principal of K.P. College . K.P. College hosted Honb’le Governer of Uttar Pradesh to inaugurate the Event in which numerous luminaries participated.

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