I can’t believe it is three weeks already since I met a bunch of brilliant athletes in Mumbai. Each with a story of their own, all connected by sport and beyond. One of them, a brilliant artist sat listening to everyone and while at it casually gave almost everyone a caricature he made on the go.!! How on earth, I wondered.
A couple of days later, McMutton ( the artist/triathlete) asked if I wanted to join him for an event that exhibited art and culture. It also has discussions around various topics he said and shared the schedule. I looked it up and it was really interesting.
At a point when I am looking to understand, assimilate and write better, topics like story telling were just what I wanted. I also wanted to see the artist’s perspective to gain inspiration. I probably didn’t need anymore reasons. I went to the Grand Hyatt without any expectations.
As I walked in, a lady was searching for the venue, we walked over together and she expressed her wonder about how an artisans event could be hosted at such a fancy hotel, must be the bollywood stars she said and joined her friends who were seated. Why not I thought and got lost looking around. The event was in the plaza area of the hotel, well-designed serving the eyes an array of colours and patterns. Stuff to stop and see, touch and feel. From weaves to woven garments, multiple workshops in creating things. There was a lot to absorb and a stage with speakers to listen in to. Just the sensory stimulation my brain needed. I have been seeing way too many tall building around me in Bombay by now.
I joined in, just as Julie Taymor was about to share her journey. After a quick hello to McMutton, I stood listening very keenly.. She spoke about the essence of connecting by showing the details and not by hiding them. Speaking about perspective and originality, she explained in depth her experiences of stories and how they evolved with her. Languages are no barriers, and we all see what we want to see. The biggest take away from Julie, for me was her expression and confidence that everything in the future is part of the past. Circle of life. Originality is in expression not in the story itself. Its all in the DNA. Her words were emotional and powerful. I did not know she was recipient of seventy major arts awards worldwide while she spoke, I am very glad I was there in time to listen to her journey.
Next in conversation were artisans sharing their story. This gathering is a celebration of ten years of ‘Jiyo’, a design lead initiative by Padmabhushan Rajeev Sethi, a leading designer and art curator. The vision of Jiyo as I understood it is extremely well thought of. As I sat down and listened to the artists, I was thinking about the layers in the execution of Jiyo, it made me pause and think of the first entrepreneurial dreams I shared with a friend from the design department at IISc, making Channapatna toys global. Trips to artisan sheds and conversations to understand evolution and trends remain fresh even after years.
Protecting art forms that are quickly losing their connect with society has been innately engrained and keeps resurfacing in the everyday. Connected by art, culture, artisans or maybe just humans and their surroundings. It was beautiful to listen to how they create and have been evolving with time. My key take away from this session by the artisans is that every artist has a unique vision; I cannot agree more. Art is formed or made to hide from something or to hide something, or is it? Isn’t it an expression that doesn’t always need a reasoning? I am not sure, yet but I wonder.
This session was followed by a revealing Sufi performance, by the maestro himself, Madan Gopal Singh / Chaar Yaar. He had my attention, the moment he started. I found a quiet spot a level above the plaza, next to an indoor plant and settled. Just as I sat I saw McMutton take out his book and pen to draw. The artist who introduced me to all this awesomeness doing his thing at the far end of the stage. Enjoying the music and creating art in his own way. He showed his art to the musicians and it was beautiful to watch their response and warmth.
My respect for Madan turned multifold when I realised the pain he was in. He had a writhing spasm during the performance but none realised until much after he entertained us. He has seen through two cancers and still travels world over to share his journey through music. A very inspiring man, I am very happy to have met him. I should add that my current read is “The way of the Sufi” by Idries Shah, a beautiful book.
I went back on the concluding day for more, this time I joined the ladies who were making belts, earrings and other paraphernalia out of sustainable natural material. I had a chance to listen to Rajeev passionately introducing the various art forms to guests who joined on the day. I saw amongst others, the Theda Meda lights, the various weaves, intricate wax creations, the tholu bommalu being painted, natural dyeing, old gramophones and casettes etc. A beautiful amalgamation of traditional and modern, contemporary without labels. Conversations. A perfect preview to the World Handloom Biennale. Driven by a strong link to revive, sustain and connect through stories..
The celebration concluded with the boys from the bombay gullies,
entertaining us all with pigs and baboons. It was a perfect end to a lovely gathering while Rajeev joins in with Accadabaccadabombeybo… FUN!
I will remember the evenings I spent meeting these humans and the wonderful work they are doing in their own way.
And.. Here’s to many more story tellers. The nice kind 😉
Jiyo! Live it!!