Let her tribe grow

Riya Daga
Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Catching up with Lamani artist Meenakshi who is exhibiting her works at Art2Day gallery

Art2Day is organising ‘Ethos — A Stitching Ritual, Marking Tradition’ by painter Meenakshi. She comes from Gulbarga in Karnataka, and belongs to Lamani (Lambani, Banjara) community. In her childhood, she was very fascinated by her traditions, folk songs and the bright and very decorative costume which the tribals make with hands.

Meenakshi uses objects like kawari (shell), rose, undergarments, paper cups etc, in her works to symbolise women. She wants her works to have some interactive and 3D feel, so she stitches the kawari and other forms directly onto the canvas and pastes on some surfaces which are daily used by her.

In her works the stitched threads become  the drawing. She believes that the thread plays a major role in connecting things. 
Excerpts from an interview with the artist...

How many paintings are you exhibiting at Art2Day? Do you experiment with your material and forms?
I’m showcasing 40 paintings. I use materials like shells (kawari), paper cups, silver and copper balls, threads, cloths. I experiment with my materials as all my art work symbolises women — the things they wear or use to decorate themselves. I use that material so that my art becomes more impactful. 

You were born in the Lamani community. How was your childhood? 
I loved the life I led in my childhood. The best part of a tribal life is that it is very simple. They don’t worry about what to wear,  and what to do etc. They just enjoy themselves and grow up in close proximity with the nature.

When did you realise that you have an inclination towards art?
My mother used to work at a Fine Art college, so from childhood, I was connected with art. From Std III, I used to accompany her to her college and after Std X, I enrolled there and completed my diploma from there. 

Did you get encouragement from parents, relatives, people from your community?
Yes, my mother always encouraged me. I got a huge support from my community too. I feel so proud that though my parents were illiterate, they always encouraged me to follow my dream. There were no restrictions on me. 

How was your journey to become an artist of repute?
My journey was not straight. It was full of ups and downs, but I managed to face all the difficulties because my family was always by my side. Whenever I failed, my father helped me bounce back. He was my backbone. I used to visit many places and learn things on the go.

When and how did you start exhibiting your works? 
I used to take part in my school competitions and from Std XI, I started taking my art to shows.

Is there any specific reason that all your works depict the female form?
I feel wherever we go in the universe, we women are very powerful. We have many unfulfilled desires, we go through a lot of pain but we carry on with life and succeed. I try to represent all these strong women through my work. Some of the masks I have done are based on the women who were close to me and whom I lost— my sister, sister-in-law, etc. 

What inspires you to draw?
From childhood, I was fascinated by traditions, and our folk dances. My sister was a trained classical dancer, so from a very young age, I was exposed to classical music and dance. I portray that in my art pieces. 

Of all the achievements, which one is close to your heart?
Any achievement that I get in art is very special to me, but whenever I  got any scholarship, I felt very good — it was through that money that I could finish my college. I was very happy after receiving Lalit Kala Akademi fellowship which enabled me to study in city and learn new things and get inspired by new trends. It helped me to improve my work.

According to you, what role does an artist play in society?
I think an artist plays a very important role. The way they see society is very different. They are the people who reflect things through art. 

ST Reader Service
ART2DAY, 805, The Reverie, Bhandarkar Institute Road, above Skoda Showroom, till June 17, between 11.30 am - 6.30 pm

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