Odisha’s Gotipua Dance Visuals Adorn Walls Of JNU Art Gallery

New Delhi: Boy Dancer – Convergence and Continuum, an exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs and documentaries on the 14th-century dance form of Gotipua, has once again come to Delhi, courtesy Odisha-born visual artist Birendra Pani and his art historian wife Dr Rajashree Biswal.

The exhibition, inaugurated on January 29, is the first exposition in the art gallery of School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, after it was revamped recently.

Pani had an exhibition on the theme at MS University Gallery, Vadodara, and the Gallery Espace New Delhi, in July and August 2007, respectively. It is the third in a series of exhibitions by the artist showcasing the evolution of Gotipua dance form.

The exhibition organised on the JNU campus this time is focused on giving exposure to the postgraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral students of the School of Arts and Aesthetics.

Through the exhibition, Pani is not only showcasing the distinct aesthetics and cultural identity of Gotipua and the boy dancers of Odisha but also the vulnerable condition of the dance form. The artist has made an effort to give a new aesthetic experience to the viewers and showcase the interactive interface between visual and performing arts.

Besides old paintings, drawings, photographs, and video-based artworks from the archives of New Bridge India, a non-profit founded by Rajashree Biswal and Pani, the exhibition this time also has new art works highlighting the real-life transformation of Gotipua dancers. The evocative moment of the dance form has been shown through the proscenium stories and the Bandha Nrutya Series photographs while short films show the journey of the artist from being Gotipua dancer to taking up other vocations in life for a living.

“In my first two exhibitions, the young boys featured in my show were also present and had enthralled the visitors with their performance. They have grown up and are doing different things now. Except for Bichitra Kumar and Dushmanta Maharana, who are Odissi dance Gurus now, others have taken up other professions for their livelihood. In my documentary, I have tried to capture all of their stories,” Pani told Odisha Bytes.

The boy dancers featured in Pani’s show were trained by Guru Maguni Charan Das at heritage crafts village of Raghurajpur in Puri district.

Performed by young boys dressed up as girls in devotion and love for Lord Jagannath, Gotipua, which paved the way for Odissi, is slowly losing its popularity among the new genre and is crying for attention. Pani and Biswal aim to draw the attention of policy-makers, governments, and art lovers to conserve the dance form.

The exhibition, which will end on February 6, will also have a session on February 5 evening at the JNU auditorium where renowned Odissi dancer Sharon Lowen, Head of Department, Gender Studies, Jadavpur University Prof Aishika Chakraborty, Dean of SAA JNU Prof Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, Pani and Biswal will discuss on how to keep the dance form alive and draw the attention of government and people.

“Gotipua is exclusive to Odisha and we want to conserve this traditional art form. The young boys stop performing after 18 as they undergo physical and psychological changes and their muscles become stiff. There comes a saturation point and only a few take up Odissi as a vocation. The exhibition and discussion intend to uphold the aesthetics of the dance form, attract new audiences, and create a novel discursive space for the dance form in contemporary times,” said Biswal who is also the curator of the show.

She lamented the absence of books exclusively on Gotipua. “If research-based books can be written with support from the government, it would be helpful,” she suggested.

Pani hails from Bhadrak in Odisha and studied art at Shantiniketan and Vadodara. A freelance visual artist with studios in Delhi, Odisha and Vadodara, Pani added that his identity has roots in rich historical and cultural heritage of Odisha.

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