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Sunday, 8 April 2012

Manipuris have an intrinsic heritage in art' - On the move...

Deccan Herald | Hema Vijay

Manipuris have an intrinsic heritage in art. For them, art has to have a deeper connect with life. No wonder, their works stand technically sound, not just inspirationally effective, observes Hema Vijay.

To the average Indian, an inevitable set of images take stage on the mind when you say ‘Manipur’: amazing Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for 12 years now; the mesmerising, swirling movements of Manipuri dance and the cult of Ras Lila; verdant hills shimmering with streams and rivers; exquisite cane craft, shawls and quilts; and of course, Manipur’s charming bamboo folk dance, wherein nimble footed girls dance gaily over bamboo reeds moved in rhythm.

Contemporary visual art doesn’t usually enter this collage of images. Well, though not apparent to the view of cash rich art markets, Manipur does have a vibrant contemporary art scenario, though it happens to be one that is kicking to stay alive, struggling in a sensitive state that is hostage to blockades, armed extremism and assorted economic woes, not to mention the lack of a proper art education system.

The hills of Manipur are replete with numerous tribal clusters, each with their own separate art forms. “This is because the tribes had long been isolated by the hilly borders, and each of their art forms have evolved in isolation, like the Darwinian evolution of life,” says Anupama Mishra, who has been researching on the cultural heritage of the north-east. This is what makes the 30-odd ethnic groups in the state possess a distinct style element.

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