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80-yr-old Warli painter to remind Rahul of his grandmother’s promise
Padmashree awardee Jivya Mhase is yet to receive land promised to him by Indira Gandhi in 1976

In what could become a highlight of AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's Maharashtra visit, legendary Warli painter, Padmashree awardee Jivya Soma Mashe will ask the young leader to execute former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 1976 order of granting three and a half acre land to an artist who had had impressed her.

Rahul Gandhi is slated to meet 80-year-old Jivya in Palghar in Thane at a felicitation function organised by the minister of state for tribal development, Rajendra Gavit this Saturday, January 29.

The meeting carries tremendous political and cultural significance as Gandhi intends to address tribal development issues, and Mashe is a living example of a tribal artist for whom honours and acclaim have not translated into empowerment of any kind.

Government apathy and general lack of accountability dog him at every juncture, including his failed efforts to ask the state government to execute already passed orders for release of three and a half acres in his name.

Jivya Mashe is credited with popularization of a traditional art among the younger Warli artists. He has held exhibitions in France, Germany and US

Mashe holds the documentary evidence of orders given by former PM Indira Gandhi and the then Chief Minister Shankarrao Chavan granting him ownership of a piece of land close to his current house in Gabhinpada at Ganjad (near Dahanu).

In one of his earliest exposures to New Delhi's art circles, Mashe was introduced to Indira Gandhi in 1976. She paid rich compliments to his pictorial compositions and gave specific orders to grant him land as a resource to empower the emerging artist.

As Mashe followed up the decision, he realised that the land already belonged to another adivasi. "Evicting a fellow tribal to get that piece! That was the last thing I wanted.

But I am sure some other small plot can be given and am trying to get it from Maharashtra government for the last 35 years," Mashe told Mumbai Mirror, as he was readying up for a series of social dos in Thane district a natural fallout of the news of his winning the Padmashree.

On January 29, he intends to tell Rahul Gandhi to look into the matter. "I am 80 years old now and quite tired. I want to start a primary school in Gabhinpada. If I get the promised plot, Warli children will get a school. Formal education will lead to more empowered artists.

Better late than never, I am going to tell Rahul," he added. He said though he never received formal schooling, he nurses the ambition of raising well-groomed school kids in his neighbourhood.

Excerpts from an interview:

What are your feelings after getting Padmashree? Will you travel from Dahanu to Delhi for the ceremony?

I am honored and am certainly going to be in Delhi for the award. I will talk to President Pratibhatai Patil and tell her about the bad roads in my district. Something should be done to improve basic communication.

You have internationalised Warli art. But do you see Warli artists reaping rich returns?

Payments are ad hoc in nature. In my own life, I have sold only three paintings for Rs One lakh each. Therefore, big money has not come to the Warlis, though the intricate life-like designs, particularly the man-environment themes in our paintings have been appreciated here and abroad.

Coca Cola India recently made good use of Warli paintings in their ads. How do you think art connoisseurs, gallery owners, exhibition managers and other market forces can be made to give the due to the average Warli painter?

As a community, we have no bargaining power or good communication skills. Traditional Warli artists can emerge as a strong cultural force only if the government gives them some institutional backing. A centralised institution or academy is the need so that the younger generation treats it as a primary source of income. I wish it happens in my lifetime.

Your take on the fake Warli market that has flourished of late. There are also Warli art classes in metros.

I have no objection to any art. But these should not be sold as Warli artefacts.

ref - http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/2/2011012820110128020014476a58a9f2e/80yrold-Warli-painter-to-remind-Rahul-of-his-grandmother%E2%80%99s-promise.html



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