India's art community supports quake victims

M. F. Husain, one of India's prominent contemporary artists, auctioned a series of his 'Gujarat 20001' work in Kolkata. "The entire nation should rise up and help," he said. The painting, stark and dynamic in red and black, depicted a terrified woman, with her child clutching to her. The scared child-mother in the midst of a gory scene of destruction caused by the calamity - symbolised by a tattered doll and a broken pitcher - reflected how their tiny world was in turmoil.

Husain remarked that the moving scenes at the earthquake sites are bound to affect a sensitive as well as creative individual deeply. The painting was an expression of his grief and shock over the catastrophe. It was a 'poetic though', which he poured on to the canvas. Naresh Kumar, an art patron who possesses many Husani's works, bought the painting for Rs. one million. Husain also plans to come up with a book of the 'quake series'.

He is not the only artist to provide relief to over a million people in the state of Gujarat in India, ravaged by a major earthquake in January 2001. The art community in India has risen in the moment of this national calamity.

'Art for Gujarat Relief, Economic and Emotional Support (AGREES)' held an auction at the National Gallery of Modern Art. Works by leading contemporary artists, including S. H. Raza, Jehangir Sabavala, Atul Dodiya and Shakuntala Kulkarni were up for grabs. A Sabavala painting dated 1953 went to the Dutch Consul General. The funds generated were handed over to 'Kalaraksha', an NGO working for artisans in Gujarat to rebuild their lives.

Concern India Foundation arranged an auction of contemporary Indian paintings at Taj Mahal, Mumbai. About 65 paintings for auction were on display for a preview at Coomaraswamy Hall. The highest valued work was a classic portrait by Raja Ravi Varma at Rs. one million. Jamini Roy, Madhvi Parekh, Badri Narayan, A. H. Gade, Akbar Padamsee and Hemendranath Majumdar were also featured. About 10 per cent of the proceeds were contributed to quake-relief fund.

In Chennai, M. K. Chettiar, an art collector from Chennai, sold some of rare works of artists Mu. Ramalingam, Sardar and Baskar, some proceeds of which were contributed to the quake relief fund. Help seemed to be pouring in as artists- young and new - are keen on doing their bit. Suneet Chopra, an art critic, notes: "The Gujarat earthquake has definitely touched a chord in the hearts of art lovers. Importantly, they are choosing what to buy with an eye on the actual worth of the works."

An art charity show organised by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) offered works by Ved Nayar (Celebration), Vasundhara Tewari (Embrace), Arpana Caur (Baul and the River of Time), Manu Parekh (Flower Vase) and Arup Das (They met with an earthquake) - all in the range of Rs. 10,000 to Rs 15,000.

The ravaged potter community also received its share of assistance. Paulomi Abhyankar, a potter herself, is busy chalking out a revival plan for potters. She is on the board of the Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California, which has already announced a sister relationship between Gujarat and California. She has sought help from her counterparts in the US to bring relief to potters in Kutch region.

'Gurjari', the Gujarat State Handicrafts Emporium, held an exhibition-cum-sale of the state's craft in Chennai. The traditional embroidery forms of the Kutch-Bhuj region like Rabari, Kanni Bharat, Sindhi Tapora and Mutuwa have been extremely popular over the years. As the artists trying to rebuild their life out of the rubbles, a helping hand has been offered to them through this event.

Shrujan, an NGO from Kutch, arranged a similar show in Mumbai. "Artisans have to start from scratch, as the natural calamity have snatched everything from them. But their art is still alive. And it will keep them going, They haven't given up yet," a volunteer remarked. Hidden beneath bright colours, myriad forms and intricate patterns is an intense struggle to survive. And these artists are not alone in their struggle. India's entire art community has risen to give them a new lease of life and keep the country's glorious tradition alive.

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