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WORK by DUKHUSHYAM CHITRAKAR

 

Dukhushaym Chitrakar is one of the most respected senior chitrakar (painter) in the Naya village patua (painted scroll makers) community in Bengal. He stands in a long line of generations of pat-making styles and patronage-patterns.

 

DUKHUSHYAM CHITRAKAR

 
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Machher Biye (Fish Wedding)

'Machher Biye' (Fish Wedding) delightfully recalls childrens’ tales of different kinds of fish getting married and making merry. Often dismissed as merely anthropomorphic, the pat is in fact a rich social commentary on intersectional inequalities including caste, class and human-animal relations. For instance, in one of the pat, there is a large fish swallowing up the smaller fish as a humorous allegory of socio-economic asymmetry.

 
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Details of Machher Biye (Fish Wedding)

The sepia tones of 'Machher Biye' are reminiscent of the abundantly fishy and muddy waters of monsoon Bengal. They show Dukhushaym’s mastery with colour and form. This extremely limited palette is in sharp contrast with other of his works.
 

The ‘Corona Pat’, for instance, portrays the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of multi-ethnic rural communities. It reflects a high level of sophistication in visual storytelling. It not only foregrounds the role of media such as the conspicuous presence of television sets; but also includes a moving tribute to social inclusion by portraying Muslims praying for divine intervention and relief from the hardship caused by the pandemic.

 
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Corona Pat (2020)

Details of Corona Pat (2020)

 

The pat highlights a heritage artist’s awareness of the role of visual pedagogy during a pandemic. Such images play a significant part in spreading awareness about the salience of vaccination including to those who are not literate. Simultaneously, the artist uses this opportunity to tackle growing prejudice against minorities while including Muslim figures as part of Indian citizenry. 


In the 1970s, Dukhushaym began an unprecedented practice - training women to be independent chitrakars, one of whom turned out to be his daughter-in-law, Lutfa, who he frequently works with.

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His demise on March 9, 2022 lends this exhibition the unfortunate distinction of being his last. Years ago in an interview given to the Bengali little magazine, Akhar (edited by Debashish Biswas), when the interviewer, Selim Mallik, asked him how he feels when many of his pats get ruined every year in flood, Dukhashyam replied that it is not much of a loss compared to the alarming loss of human and non-human lives all around us: 'The art in my pats is minor. Life is the major form of art'.

His life truly was. 

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