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How it began

Arriving in Raghurajpur

My first visit to Raghurajpur was winter 1988. I was a student of anthropology and although we heard plenty about fieldwork it was not part of the program. It is hard to imagine today, but in the 1980s third year bachelor students in Denmark were free to plan their program more or less as they saw fit.

I decided to try my hands at fieldwork and travelled to Odisha in India. After weeks marked by failed attempts to set up a project, I went to Puri at the Bay of Bengal to have a break. Apart from walks on the beach, I planned a visit to a crafts village to get an impression of the place as a potential research site and to pick up a gift for a friend.

One afternoon in Raghurajpur spend looking at villagers painting and carving crafts was all it took to make up my mind, this was where I wanted to do my first ethnographic fieldwork. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a lifelong engagement with painters.

A week later, I moved into the village to stay for three months in the household of an acknowledged painter. During my stay, I spend time with young and old not least enjoying the company of some of my age mates. They were still there when I returned a few years later to spend 18 months with painters in Puri district and they are the reason I have kept coming back.

"A spectator bird landing to immerse but always taking off"​
Helle Bundgaard in Painting Stories