4 November, 2019
While many people continue to use age as an excuse not to do something, there are also many out there who show why age never matters. An 80-year-old tribal woman’s paintings made it to the art galleries in Milan; this would not have been great news as tribal art does have a lot of followers. But how about if we tell you that Judhaiya Bai Baiga, only started learning to paint when she was 70! Yes, Baiga, from Lorha village of Madhya Pradesh, learned to paint when she was 70 and is now going strong, and also firmly believes that there is scope for a lot of improvement! Recent articles published in a few sections of the media about her, tell a story about how she made it be an artist selling her art abroad in her own words.
It’s not by design that her art traveled across continents into an art gallery in Milan. Being a widow just about when she was getting into the 40s, she had to work in the fields to make her ends meet. She had never dreamt even in her wildest dreams about her being a painter whose art would sell in galleries abroad. But at 80, she is proud of her achievements, though not overly so, and says fame has not changed her life much in any way. She is happy to see other women get encouraged and take to painting, including her daughter in law.
She never was interested in painting, to begin with, or perhaps, the way her life took turns, she never really had time to explore anything beyond earning. She came to know about a teacher in her village, who was teaching painting for free and decided to enroll and explore. The village is a remote tribal one, and development in many forms has yet come in. She started taking classes with Ashish Swami, and on day one, found her passion, even though she had just intended as an escape from her daily rigmaroles.
People in their community dress up in bright colours and work hard to earn their living. They also depend mostly on forest resources for their daily livelihood and also do menial jobs for earning. But, at age 70, while most people think of giving up on work and settling down, Baiga took to painting and indulged with a passion. Tribal art is always different from the rest, as it brings with it the rich culture and their vibrant outlook on life as well.
Most often, such talent is discovered, because of a “guru,” a teacher who believes in some purpose and works towards it. In this case, Ashish Swami is an alumnus of Shantiniketan, the world-famous University of West Bengal. He runs his art studio called ‘Jangan Tasweerkhana’ in many of the tribal belts of Madhya Pradesh, with an intent to prevent these local traditions and culture from being extinct. He believes paintings are a good way of telling the world out there about these things.
In Baiga’s village, he started with his studio about a decade ago, and around 15 women have benefitted from this initiative. For Baiga, painting is something that sets her free, and also helps her earn, and keep her traditions alive, and put her village on the world map. Swami was quoted as saying Baiga’s art fetches anywhere between Rs. 300 to 8000, and he intends to promote these further.
People like Baiga and the 96-year-old, Karthiyaniamma Krishnapilla, who topped the literacy exam of Kerala, teach us how age is just a number. They tell us to follow our hearts and passion, irrespective of our age. Learning never stops in life, and you can start learning something new at any age. It is never too late. We had also read about how many 60 and 70-year-olds have enrolled for Ph.D. We also learned about women entrepreneurs who started selling their art through online shops in their late ages. These people are giving us some lessons, leading by example; there is no stopping oneself, especially not because of age. All you need to do is find you are calling out there.
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