I love collecting art when I travel.
Before I moved out of Jen and Ian’s house in Sudbury, my closet was chalked full of posters, prints, and art cards I’ve amassed throughout my journeys. Yes, you read that right. My closet. The walls and shelves of my bedroom wall have already been covered with a variety of maps and other items, relegating any new additions to my collection to my (very official) archive space, in anticipation that I will one day have more than just a bedroom in which to hang art.
I have gotten two new acquisitions in Nepal: a set of beautiful paintings done by the woman who work at the Janakpur Womens Awareness Society in eastern Nepal. When Marlon and I made the decision to travel to Janakpur, it was mainly for the affore-posted-about festival, but also to learn more about Mithila artwork (Mithila is the name of a region in India, that borders on the Janakpur area).
So, after napping off the effects of our 12-hour overnight bus ride from KTM to Janakpur, Marlon and I snagged a rickshaw and headed to the society office in the next village over.
The style of Mithila art has been traditionally passed down from generation-to-generation amongst Nepali and Indian women. It started off as a way for the artists to document their social history, by “recording the lives of rural women in a society where reading and writing are reserved for high-caste men.” (Lonely Planet, thanks!). The colourful murals were originally painted on the walls of houses and around town (something we witnessed in Janakpur), and has expanded nowadays to include papier mâché boxes and other knick-knacks, as well as paper-based paintings, with which we quickly fell in love.
The first painting depicts that idea of documenting everyday activity: traditional housework and cooking. I think it acknowledges the integral role women play in the functioning of their families. When it comes to women and equality in Nepal, there’s still a long way to go – women are still very much expected to prepare each and every meal for their husband and male family members, and spend hours in the kitchen while their male counterparts drink warmed raksi (local liquor). This painting is documentation of the expected behaviour currently of many women in traditional villages, and I hope that in the near future these Mithila paintings can be depicting different scenes. Until then, every dollar earned from these artworks goes back to the development of women’s programs in Janakpur, which is an excellent first step.
Below is my second Mithila painting, a bit smaller than the first. This one appealed to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it made reference to the marriage of Sita and Rama, why Marlon and I were in Janakpur in the first place.
Marlon got another painting showing the marriage ceremony of Sita and Rama:
The work at the Womens Development Society was absolutely beautiful, and these women are talented beyond belief. I am grateful I had the opportunity to travel to the place where it’s made, and learn more about the story behind the colourful paint and intricate lines.
One thought on “Artistic appreciation: Mithila art”
Hi Hilary. Just a short note of thanks for your oh so interesting stories. Today being Christmas and you being very, very far away, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for continued good health, happiness and many more exciting experiences and adventures in the upcoming year. Take Care. Jack Yard and Family.