Once the artists understood the basic concepts of calligraphy, their own creativity and imagination took over. They formulated enthusiastic plans to apply this art to their particular craft or art form. Apindra Swain began to understand ways of calligraphy being incorporated in his work. He also took a new step by depicting non-traditional subject matter.
The astrologer has been a part of rural India, roaming the villages offering to tell people’s fortunes. Such astrologers are also found in the old parts of cosmopolitan cities. Parrots are a decorative element in much of India’s art and craft. In Swain’s story in a series of nine modules, the astrologer releases a caged parrot and teaches it how to select cards that add up to telling a person’s fortune, rather like Chinese fortune cookies. For most of the series in these paintings, the parrot is teasing the viewer, sometimes showing this word, sometimes that, flying in from the right and sometimes the left. Finally, the astrologer, his customer, and the parrot gather together as the parrot picks out a set of cards that tells the customer’s future. The cards together read tumara aasha puran heba, meaning “your hopes will be fulfilled”. The pictures convey the message that education is liberating and can help in earning a good livelihood. A humorous subtext is in the lighthearted mocking of most popular forms of astrological predictions, which are reassuring clichés that insecure people seek.
Above: Framed kalamkari wall hanging of the Tree of Life with Telugu script.
Below: Platter in Urdu script with painted stones in papier-maiche art.
Projection on an installation.