As you travel to West Bengal, the art form can be distinguished by the identity of each district. You have the Bankura Horses, the Phulia taant, the Kantha embroidery, the Baluchari and so on, the list is endless. What stays entrenched is the kitschy art form called the Pattachitra. This is a cloth based scroll painting that is known for its intricate details as well as the mythological narratives and folk tales inscribed on it.
Today, Pattachitra artists have found recognition internationally. Apart from painting in scrolls they have, in a very minuscule way, started creating clothing with the same art form in stoles and dupattas.
The excellent play of colour is part of rural Bengal and there is a controversy regarding the dates of the ancient patuas. This art form dates back to the Pre Pala period and is still tucked away in small villages of Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and other parts of 24 Parganas.
The colours are dense and natural. They represent the cultural traditions of creating Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Every Pattachitra has a song attached to it and the Patuas sing to you songs of folklore.
I felt the songs of Pradip Patua sear into my being. The innocence of his eyes. His folded jeans over his ankle and his rubber Bata chappal were telling me a story. His story of having walked miles in search of lost souls who could drown in his village tunes. He said, “don’t buy anything, just hear me sing”. How could I deny him his occupied space in my heart. I knew I would drown into his story of struggle about making his songs live through his art. He was simple to the point of it being a fault.
That evening, I returned to my urban space of artists, city slickers who all know how to negotiate a price for their art. I found myself feeling suffocated among the arrogant aware.
Pradip Patua stays with his innocence and I pray he finds a person who will open up his art and world. And he never needs to request anyone to listen to his songs ever.
I told him the world is round and the universe has a strength that we can’t comprehend. In that sphere he will find his space under the sunshine and his Pattachitra colours will burn bright into an endless prism.
As he folded his canvas I saw him smile at me. Unsure yet with a stoic gaze of an artist. I knew that look from deep inside of my being. It was of hope and wanting freedom from the clutches of poverty.