OB Special: ‘Your Wall, Your Art’ Infuses New Creative Vigour Into Artists’ Village Raghurajpur

Bhubaneswar: ‘Heritage Village’ Raghurajpur, about 10km from Puri, is again buzzing with activities. The deft hands are back to work, adding colours to the walls and doors of every house lining the street on either side, with chitter-chatter punctuated by laughter filling the air after a period of gloom.

Robbed of their livelihood amid COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing traditional mural camp by Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi in collaboration with the state culture department has given the keepers of Odisha’s ancient Pattachitra art a reason to look forward to another day filled with promises of a better future.

“Your wall, your art is the best concept we could think of to encourage the entire artist community while abiding by the COVID protocol. Men, women and even children can be seen creating exquisite pieces of art on a canvas as wide as 7500 square feet with all walls combined together,” said Akademi president Sudarsan Pattanaik.

Besides Rs 10,000 remuneration to each family, what made the entire process even more exciting is Akademi’s decision to award the best five best murals.

“Not only the five households but every artist will be given a certificate acknowledging their contribution to the art form,” he added.

Sudarsan said the message that COVID may dampen our spirits for a while but cannot stop the breath of the human endeavour, is loud and clear.

“Raghurajpur will be a visual treat for visitors once the tourism sector revives after COVID,” the celebrated sand artist told Odisha Bytes.

After 8 days, the 150 artist families have recreated stories from Ramayana, Mahabharat, Krushna Lila, Kalia Dalana, Rath Yatra, Nabakalebara and Naba Durga, among others, through painstaking work, natural colours, vivid imagination and lots and lots of patience.

“We would start the work around 9 or 10 in the morning and continue late into the night. The camp brought back life into the village,” said Aka Swain, an artist.

He has painted Sadbhuja Gauranga and several small murals depicting episodes from the Mahabharat on walls of his house.

The village, which once teemed with tourists, wore a deserted look since the second COVID wave with even people staying indoors to avoid the virus. “The villagers were gripped by fear as around 25 people tested positive for the deadly disease and a 28-year-old artist also succumbed to it,” said secretary of Raghurajpur village committee Abhiram Das.

He said the camp has filled the artists with optimism and they are hopeful of seeing more visitors alighting at the village once the pandemic situation improved and lockdown restrictions are lifted. “Words are spreading and people are inquisitive to know what is going on in the village,” he added.

“We have been living under great financial stress since the COVID outbreak. The younger lot gave up the art and took up petty jobs to feed the family. That too stopped after the state was hit hard by the second wave. The camp made us forget all our sorrows and spread cheer among the villagers,” said a woman artist.

Another artist said the tourists will get to enjoy the varied hues of heritage at the village with walls of every house telling a story from our Hindu epics.

The state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has extended support to this novel initiative.

“We have been promoting art, culture and heritage preservation-related initiatives consistently as part of our CSR policy. We are sure these creations will welcome tourists and art lovers in different ways once this difficult time is over,” said OMC managing director Balwant Singh.

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