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Phanindra Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2016-01-31

Contemporary cultural dialectics of Manipur

Cultural theorists have suggested that the orientation of culture is itself the signifier of metanarrative and form of self-reflection of collective consciousness. The collective consciousness makes account of the self that heads on to render the presence of creative manifestation. Manipur  in the state of India is in  today’s cultural discourse a space of unveiled forms of creative industries. Such creative industries are what already have been viewed and aesthetised the traditional form of dance, form of drama, form of literature and the visual form. And many significant individuals have philosophised and signified cultural dialectics. Manipur is significantly amalgamation of thirty three ethnic communities and was a princely independent country before the advent of British in 1891. Thus the culture of   Manipur infused with the western modern for subsequent  institutionalization  in religiosity  through the concept of conversion in   the  colonial period and later too.

The modernist stance, caught up with its longings for centeredness, created binary with the concept of periphery that comes to be associated with the ‘Other’. A scrutiny of contemporary practice reflects its dissolve, this uneasiness with centres and peripheries. There have been tendency amongst many well-meaning schemes for ‘tribal-upliftment’ that seeks to re-contextualize their skills by developing products for urban consumption. There have always a textual trace of tendency at peripheral polarity to become cultural self as cultural identical projection. That might be a question of uncanny state, what leads to be self identical cultural industry of North East of India. However, the cultural projection and manifestation is becoming nowadays  an edge,  a pastiche conclave, rather being  the self-reflexivity and dialectic propositions. Thus we have stepped up in the state of modernism praising traditional and commodified cultural eclecticism. Subjecting the subjectivity of the cultural dialectics of North East of India, we are over the years spinning  a state of self-less recollection. It is the time  we are living in and politicizing or philosophizing as the emerging states, having false notion of pastiche capitalism. No one knows, no one can say, what will be a real apparatus for retaining our cultural objectivism, though we have already institutionally prophesised to reach ‘worldstage’ (Vishwadarbar). In this stunning edge the cultural projection and socio-political advancement rests on difference. Then, we also have to take  an account of  historical raptures of events and narratalogy of events’ for proper  cognitive perception.   In such cases and fragments,  the term contemporary is not a linguistic misrepresentation but rather a stand or position and self-reflexive agenda. 

In post colonial period Manipur  attuned with the concept of modernism, established various institutions along with traditional forms of expressions. In 1949, Imphal Art College was established, starting  modern academicism of art. Establishment of Manipur State Kala Akademi (in 1972) accomplished with various art forms like dance, drama, music, literature and fine arts that enthused modern art practice of Manipur. Th. Tombi Singh went to Baroda to work under K.G.Subramanyan with a  fellowship by MSKA. Significantly few artists like,Y.Ibochoubi Singh (painting and graphics), S.Joychandra Sharma (sculptor), R.K.Sorojkumar Singh (graphics) went for further studies to M.S.University, Baroda. Artists like L.Phunindro Singh (painting), A.Ekant Sharma (applied Art), Koolchandra M. Them, Ch. Premananda Roy, H. Kependro, Ng. Norendrajit Singh, Y. Gunindro , H. Deven,N. Joykumar, S. Sashimohon, R.K. Sanajaoba Singh and S. Pranam Singh also went for further studies to Government College of Art and Crafts, Kolkata. Th. Debendra Singh (painting), Ch.Lalit Singh, T. Hemba Singh also did study at Kala Bhawan Santiniketan and Y. Nabachandra Singh did his bachelor (applied arts) at J.J.School of Arts and master in visual arts at I.I.T Bombay. And later nineties artists like L. Ishwor Singh, Kh. Sarat Singh, Labango, Milan and Ng. Chandrasekhar Singh  contribute sensitive insight to Manipur art scenario.

Since the modern inception, artists of Manipur , particularly , the visual artists have developed and explored traditional institutional forms. The tradition and religious decorum,  have been projected by paying homogeneous gesture towards the cultural participation where  artists  blend  narratives by own adaptation of lyrical language. In such cultural participation and modern narrative , the attribute of  modern art  grew  into institutionalism. Like the other artists of North East, few significant artists of Manipur  also entered in academic sphere and adopted modern institutionalism propounded by  Sanntiniketan, J.J.School of Art and Baroda  which sojourned their visual cultural psyche toward imbuing modernity.  Ch.Lalit Singh, L. Ishwor Singh, Kh. Sarat Singh, Labango, Milan, Ng. Chandrasekher and other artists are endorsing the traditional institutionalism in the flashes of contemporary performative binary of capital culture.  Here the significant aspect  of the artists of Manipur is that they are sensitive towards ethnic cultural manifestation and rests upon the transgrassive objectivism of self -recollection of cultural dialectic. That might be a metonymy of contemporary visual cultural agenda, what signifies the critical stand or position holding, being the artist as performer of post-industrial society to the participants in  the eclecticism of North East of India’s contemporary art language. 

The another aspect of present art scenario of Manipur and other states of North East, is the need  to make an conscious attempt  to create and construct homogenous critical insight of new art historical paradigms to cotextuaise the cultural industries and ethnic dialectics. North East of India is populated with more than one sixty three ethnic communities, manifesting their own cultural dialects. Though the political state and economy  of the people of these states are  chaotic  there has to be an account of collectivism in our performative representations to raise the voice of open culture. Otherwise, pastiche capitalism and capital culture will grab our true self.

Phanindra Talukdar

(Phanindra Talukdar holds B.V.A.and M.V.A in Art History and Aesthetics from Maharaja Sayaji Rao University of Baroda. Working as independent curator and art writer. )

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