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WORK by LUTFA CHITRAKAR

After losing both her parents at the age of ten and subsequently being married at fourteen into a family that excels in pat (scroll arts) in Bengal, Lutfa Chitrakar has come into her own as a woman and an artist. Traditionally, in the patua community, daughters do not inherit the artistic and performative skills and trades of their parents, and daughter-in-laws even less so. Nevertheless, along with her father-in-law, Dukhushaym Chitrakar, she has gone onto make a mark in patua circles, often deploying feminist themes in her paintings. 


The 'Ramayan Pat' is a traditional theme popular among pat painters. As the name suggests, the Ramayana is the story of the ideal king, Rama in which his wife, Sita, is presented as a meek and obedient consort. Interestingly, Lutfa Chitrakar highlights the figure of Sita in every frame of the panel and ends up portraying her as the main protagonist of the ancient epic.

 
 
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Ramayan Pat (2018)

Details of Ramayan Pat (2018)

 

As it is an artistic convention for many male chitrakar (painter) to depict female figures marginally smaller than their male counterparts, Lutfa consciously put them on an equal scale and equivalent footing compositionally. Throughout, she highlights Sita’s subjectivity in terms of her fraught dilemmas in a male-centred narrative. Indeed, not a single frame in any of the parts of the pat are bereft of female representation - sometimes they are central, and sometimes peripheral depending on the story. They are each carefully painted with a variety of lavish details.