Fierce in her Colours
The women of Chandidih, with Udbhav, an ongoing community art project, have proven that with the right nudge, art is never not reachable
Hailing from the small tribal village of Chandidih in Jharkhand, Pooja Munda found the world of Madhubani art through her mother. Kanjo Munda would paint while rocking her child to sleep. Despite the daily arduous trips to fetch water, the lack of healthcare facilities or the economic uncertainty surrounding them constantly, Pooja and Kanjo Munda dreamt of someday painting their stories. That dream was realised through Madhubani paintings, when artist Avinash Karn, in 2015, together with Artreach India, initiated Udbhav – a community mural project designed to engage and empower the tribal women of Chandidih village.
Avinash, who hails from Ranti village in the Madhubani district of Bihar, first went to Chandidih village for a Madhubani workshop and was moved by the passion he saw there – especially among the women, who, at the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, demonstrated a natural instinct and excitement to learn. Forced to reckon with their potential, he tapped into their creative expression and devised a self-sustaining model driven by Madhubani art. And when Artreach India came through with the funding, Udbhav officially set sail.
Of course, there was some initial reluctance among Chandidih’s women to attend the painting workshops with Avinash. To them painting seemed like an unaffordable luxury. But gradually, after some artworks were sold, the number of participants increased. And just like that, the workshops became a refuge. All the women needed was some basic training in colour making and drawing; and they were able to transform their ideas into something more than tangible. The amalgamation of their boundless imagination and their tough life found form on the walls of Chandidih and brought it alive with vibrant colourful murals.
The Madhubani artworks created by these women in the duration of these workshops do not require much academic contemplation. They are a visual narrative of their daily struggles and their interactions with the world around them. Art became their momentary escape from the toils of reality. And Udbhav gave them the desire and courage to achieve more. ‘Painting is my passion. We can make a living by doing any work, but painting can give me recognition. I want to share my talent and tell everyone that even I can do something. I show my own story through the paintings’, said artist Sapna Toppo, who like Pooja, Kanjo and many other women in the village is now fuelled to achieve that which seemed impossible before
Udbhav hit the mainstream art world with its second phase which began in 2018 with a ten days residential workshop at Avinash’s studio in Varanasi. For the artists from Chandidih, Sunita Devi, Maini Devi and Radhesh Oraon, this was their first trip out of the village. The same year, with the Artreach Festival, Artreach opened newer doors and helped the participants sell works to a much wider audience. Udbhav’s next milestone came in April 2019 when Avinash took nine paintings to Switzerland and exhibited them at the Fumetto Comic Art Festival.
For Avinash Udbhav was an impactful, almost cathartic experience. He was captivated by the simplicity of their working patterns; the way they expressed with directness and purity. Their way of thinking was transparent, uncomplicated, yet powerful. In the last almost five years, Udbhav has morphed from a spatial transformation project, to community art initiative that resulted in eight murals around the village and a number of Madhubani paintings, to a living, breathing entity that doesn’t just sustain, but empowers and enriches. It didn’t just boost the women of Chandidih financially and emotionally, but gave colour to their dreams – and through it all, revived stories through Madhubani art an aspect that was always an intangible part of their cultural past.
With the COVID situation, Udbhav has come to an abrupt halt and sales are not as high as they were before. Artreach, however, is promoting the project fiercely and is asking enthusiasts to come to the aid of these inspiring women and donate any amount towards the continued progress of the project. For more information, click here.Share