Starry Hills with Fishes in Spring Halls

“Here comes the hippies……”. That was the welcoming comment we received when we entered Frank’s home in Gunehar, a village on the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, somewhere near the Bir-Billing, that is probably the only place in India where you can paraglide.

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We were not there to paraglide but to participate in the ongoing conceptual art residency/ festival in the Gunehar village. A festival named Shopart/Artshop organised by Frank Schlichtmann, a German-Indian artist and curator.

Artologue was referred to Frank through a mutual friend on Facebook and we decided to be a part of it for a week. Many artists were already working in the village and produced fantastic artworks in a month’s time.

Frank gave us two places to paint; one in the beginning of the village and one in the end of the village and both were water sources of the village.

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The community of the village was involved in various artworks produced by other artists so we decided to do our thing on our own. But as you know….the moment we open the pandora’s box, we get crowded by onlookers, kids, passer by and then it got easy for us to involve them.

That’s exactly what happened at the first water source which was frequented by women for washing clothes and by passer-by for drinking water all day long. The floor surface of 15x10x10 feels water hall was slippery with moss and it was difficult to paint the walls without cleaning it.

We decided to clean it on our own. While we were cleaning the moss with sand paper women and kids who came to wash their clothes stopped and started helping us.

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One of the old ladies came and blessed us saying “I had slipped on the mossy surface and dislocated my knee cap and hurt my forehead. I don’t know why no one thought of cleaning it before.”

Then the lady showed us her dislocated knee cap. We never thought that cleaning the moss would bring us so many thanks from everyone.

We just cleaned it as we had to work there.

We asked the kids standing there what do they want to paint. Most of them said they don’t know how to paint and our usual reply was…tell us what to paint.

One of the girls suggested….sky and moon….it was such a nice idea for us..sky and moon on the roof and natural water on the ground. later we realise why that girl must have said sky and moon.

These villages like Gunehar have clean sky where one can see stars and milky-way all night. The girl must have been fascinated with it somehow. Later in the night we watched the clear sky studded with millions of stars till late night.

In big cities like Delhi, you never get to see sky like that.

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As Jey picked up the brush and rollers to transform the spring hall into a sky, he was immediately joined by seven children. So a monumental task like that was finished in less than two hours. Later the same day Meenakshi began drawing the sky and moon with the girls assembled there.

Meenakshi used golden and silver colours to depict the moon and stars and later turned them into playmates.

It was just the beginning…

THE OTHER WATER SOURCE

This one was at the end of the village. It was not frequented by villagers for bathing, washing and drinking purposes but by those who go to the jungle to graze their goats and cattle.

When we started working at this water source….there was no one in the vicinity….it was afternoon and we were cleaning the area to begin the work.

Suddenly we saw a group of kids aged between 5 to 8 years in school uniform.

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They stood there and asked- “what is happening?”

We replied- ‘We are painting… Would you like to paint”

They dropped their bags and were ready…it was really surprising for us. We asked them to change their uniform and come back to paint.

All of them..yes all of them came back to us within minutes and stood there waiting for the brush and paint.7

We decided to paint an aqua world there and naturally kids gave the idea to paint fish, snakes, octopus, turtles and what not.

Meenakshi did the basic sketch and then kids filled the colors.

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Next day when we went to give finishing touches to the painting….few girls joined us and sheepishly said that they would also like to paint…and they did. In a hilly village where marine life is a rare, the children were thrilled to paint colourful fishes. Many picked their brushes and painted their own versions of fishes.

While painting they shared their anxieties of life, about their career options, and asked about us.

Why we travel on a bullet?

Are we married or not?

Why does Jey have long hairs?

When did you marry?

And the most important question for them was ‘Is it a love marriage?’

We tried to answer all of them and felt that colors helps in opening up as well.

Back in Frank’s place where we had our breakfast, lunch and dinner, we interacted with other artists from all over India, Russia, Singapore, London and may other places.

And here we just explained… We are not hippies. We are just common people like others, and trying to live our DREAMS…

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One thought on “Starry Hills with Fishes in Spring Halls

  • Very well written blog. I could not join the festival despite my tickets being done. I like the way locals voluntarily joined you both in helping paint the walls. And I am pretty impressed with the perfect paintings by the duo and the kids.

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