Menu Close

Why this book?

The stories

I have previously written about the art worlds of traditional Orissan cloth paintings.  There is so much, however, that never transpired in my academic work. The stories in this book paint a fuller picture of the lives and experiences of Odishi artisans.

In 2016, twenty-eight years and many visits after my first fieldwork, I returned to Odisha to decide what to do next after years committed to the needs of my children, university administration and educational development. During my stay, painters shared with me the ups and downs of their lives since we last met, each expressing the twist and turns of life that only time can create.  When back home again,  I began writing these stories.

Helle and Seema at the riverbed, painted by Tophan Moharana, 1989

Writing with Painters

A year later, I shared story drafts and reflections with painters. Unlike my earlier experience in the late-nineties of sharing my analysis of their art worlds — an exercise that left most painters glaze eyed — the stories resonated. One painter was thrilled to be reminded of his youth, another wanted the world to know how it is to live as a village-based craft maker in India, and a third felt that sharing her story with other women might offer some meaning to her suffering.

Common for all the living painters who play a role in this book was their keen interest in our exchange, an interest that soon turned into a collaborative strive to make sense of our lives. The mosaic of texts reflects some of their deepest concerns whether a dilemma, a difficulty, or a dream, as well as my belief in biographical depth, coincidence, and life as a social game influenced by a specific time in history.