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Painting That Speak

Ranju Yadav’s paintings speak to you in intricate patterns and vibrant colours of the traditional Mithila art. Her artworks touch social issues and women empowerment. Recently she won the National Award for Fine Arts. In a conversation with WOW, she talks about her journey as an artist. Excerpts:

Text by : Anushka Shrestha
wow photo file © Gokul Shrees

How did you begin your journey as an artist?

I was brought up in the Terai where I grew watching my mother, grandmother, relatives and neighbours paint the walls and floors of their traditional mud houses. This stirred my interest and I soon began practicing Mithila art. Although I participated in many art activities in school, I never thought I would take it up as a profession. After marriage, I started living in Kathmandu. My husband met a senior artist Ajit Shah and when he visited our home he noticed my work and suggested that I put my creativity on canvas.

Have you tried your working in any other profession?

I did Lok Sewa, some teaching and also worked as a computer operator. But, I was always interested in arts. No matter how busy or tiring my day, as soon as I got home, I would paint.

What is your opinion on the art scene in the country?

It has been progressing but there is still room for improvement. Mithila art is one of the most popular forms of art worldwide, but our own people have not given it much importance. For instance, in exhibitions, Nepalese (including ministers) do not buy these paintings. On the other hand, foreigners give it so much value and are the ones purchasing it.

I think we lack the marketing aspect, for which we will need support from the government. If we can sell Mithila art in our local market, we can create a lot of job opportunities.

What makes your art stand out?

When it comes to Mithila paintings, most artists still work with the conventional aspects such as showcasing the Mahabharata or Ram and Sita’s wedding. I try to reflect on the bitter truth of our society such as the dowry system, abortion of female fetus etc. My paintings advocate against these evil practices.

Have you grown as an artist?

Initially, I felt like no one will buy my paintings but after participating in different exhibitions, people took note of my work and this boosted my confidence. I started painting in the Terai but now I do group exhibitions in different countries such as India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh. Also after my solo exhibition, I feel more confident.

What have been the biggest challenge in your journey?

As a working mother and a wife, it gets challenging to balance personal life and work. Also, there are people who talk behind our back. My husband and I have been questioned on many occasions, especially when I am travelling alone for my exhibitions. However, I consider myself very lucky to have a supportive husband. He always encourages me to do better. When I feel low, he consoles and encourages me.