At a time when most of the artists prefer to join the hoard of copying international artistes, Somburu Sovara, an artist from a remote tribal village in Odisha takes on ‘tribal art’ as his research topic.
Recently Somburu Sovara’s research on ‘Tribal images in contemporary design and modern communication’ has got selected for Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from Delhi University under the supervision of Prof S N Lahiri, Head of Department, Applied Art in College of Art, New Delhi.
Art critic Snigdha Nanda had a discussion with this promising tribal artist on his thesis research topic: ‘Tribal images in contemporary design and modern communication’.
Snigdha Nanda: Why did you choose Tribal art as your topic for research?
Somburu Sovara: From my childhood I influence to the Saura Tribal Art. It is in tribal art where life and creativity are inseparable. The tribal arts have a unique sensitivity, as the tribal people possess an intense awareness very different from the settled and urbanized people. Their minds are supple and intense with myth, legends, snippets from epic, multitudinous gods born out of dream and fantasy. Their art is an expression of their life and holds their passion and mystery.
Tribal art in India takes on different manifestations through varied medium such as Pottery, Painting, Metalwork, Dhokara art, Paper-art, Weaving and Designing of objects such as jewelry and toys. Often accent gods and legends are transformed into contemporary forms and familiar images. Fairs, festivals, and local deities play a vital role in these arts. But this aspect of tribal art is yet to be explored. I relate to this as I belong to a tribal community. Therefore, I choose this as the topic of my research.
Snigdha Nanda: What are the topics your thesis cover?
Somburu Sovara: My research for thesis covers ‘a brief history of tribal art’, evolution of tribal art and contemporary design and advertising, how tribal art was used in advertisement’, ‘Lalit Kala initiatives in tribal art, aesthetic beauty of tribal art, how different fields development came into the contemporary visual Art scenario especially in contemporary design, and tribal arts implications in the modern advertisement and the relationship with the consumer.
Snigdha Nanda: Is there any new finding to the matter?
Somburu Sovara: After 8 year research I am getting knowledge of tribal art. As nomads tribes used to carry experiences and memories of different spaces with them and their art consists of the transient and dynamic pattern of life. My thesis relevant of upcoming 3-G era, mean past, present and future effected throw in advertisement and how the rural, tribal and arts of the nomads constitute the matrix of tribal expression.
Snigdha Nanda: You belong to a tribal community. You have watched the tribal art and culture very close. What are the differences you find between that and the tribal art practiced in contemporary commercial art?
Somburu Sovara: Day to day life tribal art is getting affected by globalization. Still tribal art has immense impact in contemporary commercial world. The advertisement world shows it all that has used the tribal art to approach new generation successfully.
Still, simplicity and truth prevails in tribal art each and every time. We can see it is in Sanskrit term - “Satyam, Shivam Sundaram”.
Snigdha Nanda: From a small tribal hamlet to a researcher in national capital – how the journey has been so far?
Somburu Sovara: The journey was not a smooth sail for me. Hailing from an old Odissan tribal community (Saura) and of course its culture, I brought up looking around the tribal art in Ankarada, a forest village in Gajapati District in Odisha. Fortunately after finishing my school, I able to study in a very reputed Art college in Orissa, Art and Craft collage Khalikote, Ganjam and following my Master Degree in College of Art, University of Delhi. Then I got a UGC Grant National Fellowship for 5 years to research for in Ph.D under Faculty Music and Fine Arts from University of Delhi. This has been my struggle period – to survive in Delhi as an artist. You have to worry about rents and livelihood along with art and research.”
Snigdha Nanda: Who or what has been your inspiration in this research?
Somburu Sovara: The turning point of my carrier was the 2003 Gajapati Utsav’s solo show in Saura painting. At that event the District Collector had offered me to make a District Tribal museum. From that time I am in to serious research in Fine Art with especial focus to the tribal art forms. My guide and supervisor, Professor S N Lahiri who is also Head of Applied Art Department in College of Art in University of Delhi has been very supportive in my research.
Snigdha Nanda: What next? How do you set your role and goal as an artist hailing from a tribal community? Should tribal art be hopeful from you for quality contributions?
Somburu Sovara: Yes. I have dedicated almost a decade to research in tribal art forms. I would like to carry forward this to find out more about this enriched art form. I also aim to form a museum of tribal art.