Artist Paramesh Jolad’s letter to Umashree, Minister for Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka and an award winning artist.
Umashree Akka, I won’t ask you about your wellbeing as I am coming to know of it every day on television and in the newspapers. This electronic world has given us a fantastic life. Whenever I feel like seeing and speaking to you in silence, this electronic magic allows me to get everything on our palm. However, Umakka, there was so much happiness in those days of letter writing and waiting for hours for the trunk call. You must also think the same. Another thing Akka, whenever I remember you it is always your impressive acting in ‘Sangya Baalya’ which touched me. Wow! What amazing method acting, use of local dialect, inflection in the voice as required by the part and I can’t say enough to praise you. To say in one sentence Goddess Saraswathi has blessed you. Not only this, you add life to any part that you are given to play. You are a phenomenal actor. The best example is your present ‘Political acting’. You must also have felt this. Don’t you think it is true?
I am really sorry, I kept on writing. I didn’t inform you about me. Before I proceed let me introduce myself. I am also an artist. I paint but haven’t made a name like you. That’s why you don’t know me. When I was pushing this cart called Life I forgot to make a name for myself. Forget about making a name, somehow I was eking out a living. However for the past two months I have not been able to work. I am unable to concentrate. That’s why I felt like speaking with you hence this attempt.
Umakka, it is not an issue that you are unaware of that I want to raise. Yes, it is about the ‘adoption’ of Venkatappa Art Gallery, built in the name of the famous artist. This has disturbed the sleep of many artists from our land. You know, roots of this gallery has the memory of Venkatappa intertwined with the memories of small and big artists. This is a monument of independence of mine and ours. This is the place where many of the younger artists learnt their first steps as artists. Facing opposition from home, eating a little here and there, sleeping on the floor without any mattress, learning for 5-6 years and then when we rural artists make our way to Bangalore to achieve something what we see is Venkatappa Art Gallery. Our Government’s. If this is gone what is left for us?
Umakka, Please don’t laugh. I know why you started laughing. You might be thinking about the Kannada saying ‘A woman who had three kids tearfully describing the arduous labour pain to another woman who had six kids’, right? I know Akka, I have heard about your life’s travails from your own voice on a television show. It gives an insight into an artist’s life. Sometimes I feel our hardship is not bigger than you faced. We men make a living somehow. Only women know their hardships. I do not want to hurt you by reminding you of your difficult times. However, remembering the difficulty you went through to reach this height and as only another artist can understand the pain, I would like to express my anguish. If I express the same with Siddanna or Mr Deshpande will they understand? They may not be aware of the word hardship.
Umakka, This gallery is not a shopping mall but a symbol of our culture. Yes, In the name of development will these corporates spend money for nothing? Akka, we artists may not understand accounts but are not stupid enough to believe that corporates will arrive to help art and artists for free. They come to help people who have everything. Then who will protect people who don’t have anything? We also like this word development. Our Village and our state should develop. Their palace is being built on top of the throne of an artist who has brought fame to our land. How can you accept this misadventure?
Another ‘eminent citizen’ asks, what are the contributions of artists to Venkatappa? Umakka, as an artist you should answer this question. Right? What else can artists contribute other than art? According to their sums what should we have contributed? Are we an agent for corporates or brokers or the wealthy like the corrupt politicians? I wonder what this gentleman was expecting?
Umakaa, enough of the headache. Not mine, I mean giving you a headache. Somehow please persuade whoever you have to and make sure just this one work is achieved so that artists and this land’s soulful connection is retained. This political game has really dragged us down. To be honest, as an artist, how do you manage to be with these selfish people? You must have become used to it by now.
But one last word. Please do not revisit politics again. As an artist you were excellent. As a politician you lied to us when you said that you were against privatisation when in fact your department had already signed the agreement. To put it in the language of Bangalore, we haven’t placed a flower behind our ear. You take care of yourself and allow us to somehow manage our difficult lives! Let us meet when you again become an artist. Certainly not when you wear the guise of a politician.
This article is a translation of the Kannad article published in Kannada Prabha newspaper.
Translated by Sridhar Gowda
Karnataka Artist Movement to Ensure that Venkatappa Art Gallery Remains a Democratic Public Space for Creative Activities
Venkatappa Art Gallery, the only Public art gallery in Karnataka is being ‘privatised’ under the name of ‘adoption’ without following the democratic process. There has been no transparency as the RTI requests have been rejected and there was no shortage of funds in the department.
Artists have been protesting since Feb 2016 and have launched an online petition against this. They have also started working on a democratic vision for the gallery which is showing a sign of best practice for community involvement in public cultural spaces in India.