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Art/ Livelihood/ Migration/ Displacement/ Installations/ Discussions/ Intersections

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Tell Me A Story

ArtEast Festival 2021- a virtual experience

Curator’s Note

Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Curator


In February 2020 when we organized the 4th edition of ArtEast, the global pandemic was within striking distance but not yet a reality in India. Then the world order changed touching almost every human life. In India the visual of ‘migrants’ walking through towns and cities evoked anger and helplessness. Governments around the world were caught unawares. Life and livelihood were upended. Death stalked our neighbourhood. People were forced into virtual living. Art and artists were amongst the worst hit. But art heals and people found solace in visual narratives, shapes, colours and imagination. 


ArtEast 2021, a virtual festival invokes Art as Storytelling and showcases a slice of folk/traditional craft and contemporary art that were originally storytelling rituals with a visual and performative aspect that over time became a practice. Many such practices today suffer from lack of patronage or support and have either succumbed to commercial pressures or have slowly faded to the margins. Some have disappeared. This is an effort to revive our interest through an understanding and reinterpretation of art that tells a story.


The intersection of art and storytelling is part of Indian art tradition. The tellers of these tales were not only artists but carriers of knowledge. The Patachitra or narrative scroll painting of Bengal for examples depict episodes from mythology, religion and folklore. The various versions of the epics provide rich content. 


The geography of such practice extends from the Patua painters and poet performers of Bengal, the Pattachitra art of Odisha to the bards of Rajasthan’s Phad scroll, the Garoda picture-tellers in Gujarat to the Chitrakathis of Maharashtra.


Festival collaborators Lalsawmliani Tochhawng, Ashima Sharma and I have tried to put together art traditions from folk to the contemporary that Tell us a Story! 


Not just the tradition of performing stories but the repertoire of telling stories through motifs on cloth is perhaps as old as the spinning wheel. We try and capture some of it from one of the most evocative designs found in Nagaland.


Stories connect us and while these itinerant poets and performers have entertained Indians at melas and have even showed up at the doorstep, the archetypal landscape of storytelling is the kitchen where the family comes together every day. From Ladakh to Meghalaya we explore visuals of how stories are shared and transmitted.     


I first encountered stories when I would watch my mother listen to people narrate folktales they heard in their own families. She would document this oral literature and write them as stories published in various books and journals. I understand how valuable that exercise was in collating orality. 


‘Tell Me a Story’ is our effort at documenting stories through art and art forms.

A Glimpse of ArtEast 2020

Art Gallery, Kamaladevi Complex, India International Centre, New Delhi

ArtEast Journals

ArtEast Journal 2017

An e-copy of the Art East Journal- 2017 is available for viewing here

ArtEast Journal 2018

An e-copy of the Art East Journal- 2018 is available for viewing here

ArtEast Journal 2019

An e-copy of the Art East Journal- 2019 is available for viewing here

ArtEast Journal 2020

An e-copy of the Art East Journal- 2020 is available for viewing here