An Indigenous Artist's Perspective

11, Jan 2022 |

Bijay Dutta speaks to Samyak Dhar Tuladhar from Nepal Traveller about his iconic art pieces, his motivations, and grand plans to promote indigenous cultures

Coming from the Mithila region of Nepal, Bijay Dutta has set out to preserve the indigenous culture and help people understand and appreciate the different rituals, etiquettes, and lifestyles of indigenous people through art. He has taken it upon himself to make his art form known and through one of the biggest art exhibitions happening in Nepal, Kathmandu Triennale 2077, it is bound to be well received. 

 Dutta introduces himself saying, “I would say that I am an artist that takes all of the aspects of a society: its culture, its religion, its geographical idiosyncrasies, its etiquettes and turns that into art.” Dutta and his team are to represent their community and exhibit the vivid and rich aspects of culture, not many are acquainted with, at the Kathmandu Triennale 2077 starting from February 11- March 11. 

Q: Through the lens of an artist, how do you think making art will help preserve culture? 

A: In today’s society, many people, especially the younger generation have a rather dismissive stance on their culture. Even if they begrudgingly accept it, they just prepare for the ceremony and see it as an obligation, not realising the core aspect of why it is celebrated. I think art is one of the few mediums through which not only culture but also the feeling of celebration can be immortalised and be shown to people, giving the essence of festivity and camaraderie felt during these festivals. And I believe, showing people the crux of our rich and diverse cultures is part of the process for people to accept and appreciate their culture. Indigenous culture should be a key component of Nepal’s identity and our people. If this feedback continues on a nationwide level, our target will be achieved sooner rather than later.

Q: What motivated you to take the path of conservation and preservation of indigenous cultures?

A: I was born in such a rich culture and was raised in its lifestyle, festivals, rituals and so much more. Being engrossed in my origins and their culture made me curious. It pushed me to do my research and look into the history, traditions, myths, and stories that shaped our culture. Going through ancient and sacred texts, inscriptions and sculptures thoroughly, my inner voice spoke to me and that is when I knew the journey I had to be on. I feel that it is my responsibility to preserve, conserve and now promote indigenous culture, which is why I am here today.

Q: Aside from this exhibition, please tell us more about the contributions you have made throughout the years.

A: While doing art exhibitions has been only a recent occurrence, in my 40 years of working in this field, I have made countless art pieces, sculptures in service to my culture. In addition, we have also gone to make the occupation more sustainable by economizing the vocation. We train our artists and channel their creativity to perform the best they can. Last but not the least, we have been raising awareness of such art forms by visiting schools and presenting our masterpieces for children to observe, thus exposing them to endless opportunities in the creative sphere.

Q: What would you say is the specialty of such art forms derived from indigenous culture? How do you think it stands out?

A: From experience, I  know there are so many art forms and features, from sculptures, paintings, murals, inscriptions to statues, the creative field is vast. But I would say the central aspect that connects all of this is the amount of skill, hard work, and dedication that goes into making indigenous art forms. The amount of effort and patience that goes into making these pieces, its intricate details, is what helps it stand out. If you look close enough it is just fascinating. That is what I would like to believe separates indigenous art from other types of art.

Q: What message would you like to relay to the younger generation?

A: I have been teaching new people, helping raise awareness among people on these art forms and styles for over 40 years. I consider myself an avid observer and participant in this wonderful culture and society we have developed. I would like to urge the younger generation to just give it a chance. Look back at how these cultures were formed by traditions and myths, how these rituals came to be, and why we celebrate them. And only when we have enough youths, starry-eyed as I was, we can revitalize our culture as a staple of modern Nepali identity.

Photos by: Bidyash Dangol


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