First Week in India

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colour photo of a man showing examples of his brightly coloured paintings on large scrolls.

Montu Chitrakar and his paintings

I have finally got round to writing up my first few days in India. Minhazz and I gave our keynote speech to the International Folk Art conference in Chandigarh last Thursday, which went well, despite a few technical hitches. We had a good response from the 50 curators and artists attending the conference, but what made the conference even more worthwhile was that several of the artists Minhazz and I are working with on the Collecting Contemporary India project for NML came to the conference to show their work. In the image you can see Montu Chitrakar, a well-known Bengali scroll painter singing the story relating to his communal violence (this is religious violence often between Hindu and Muslim extremistis) in India scroll.

Diwali the festival of Light took place on Friday and as we travelled from Chandigarh to Delhi the whole landscape looked magical as every home was dotted with electric lights and the little clay lamps called deepas that are placed outside the home to welcome Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. As we came into Delhi station the noise was deafening as what sounded like hundreds if not thousands of fireworks and fire crackers were going off all over the city. The drive to the hotel was a hazy, smokey one, only interupted by the bright lights of the temples carrying out the pujas (blessings) for the festival.

I was laid low for a couple of days with a strange virus (nothing to do with the food), but I'm back on my feet again now and enjoying Orissa. For the last couple of days we've been sight-seeing, guided by a friend of ours Babu Mohapatra, who runs a tour guide business in Orissa called Inner India Tours. He's extremely knowledgeable about his home state and in the past few days we have seen many beautiful 7th-9th century Hindu temples that have strong Buddhist influences in their carvings. Tomorrow we travel to the very North of the state to Similipal National Park, a beautiful reserve home to the elusive tiger. Don't hold you're breath for a photo on the next blog though!