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Lions Fiesta
by John Devaraj, Bangalore

March 10, 2004
This paper was presented by John Devaraj at an Artists Art Historians Meet in Gujarat on 7th March 2004.

As long as lions, have no historians;

tales of history will glorify the hunter.

We are the lions, you'll find us everywhere

We are strong we are brave,

We are the creators of this world so rare

Come and hear us roar. Come and hear our lore

You will ask for more and you will ask for more

They are the hunters, owning all the spears,

From land to money, and barrels of our tears,

we are the bees making all the honey

Don't be afraid my dears we have no fears

Come and hear us roar. Come and hear our lore

You will ask for more and you will ask for more

We are the Lions, it surely makes us pride

We'll never let any hunter take us for our ride.

If you don't ride our story, you'll feel very sorry

You'll never go to bed coz we'll chew up your head.

Come and hear us roar. Come and hear our lore

You will ask for more and you will ask for more

We are the lions; you'll find us everywhere

From Bangalore to Sion we're roaring every where

Come and hear us roar. Come and hear our lore

You will ask for more and you will ask for more

We were always told about the valor and courage of the hunter. The man who with his weapons shredded and killed the ferocious lion, that monstrous carnivore. But surely we know that it is the lion that is brave The objective truth is well covered by the subjective cowering philosophy of the lowly man, seeking to justify ones existence, and superiority through the indulgences of abstract lingo-gymnastics!

Who will then record the history of the Lion, the brave heart?

History hitherto has been the story of those who ruled and oppressed the common people.

It has been in praise of the propertied that patronized the poet and the artist who were compelled to sing the ballads of the pompous, paint the sagging faces of the wrinkled elite! And not the wandering pilgrims like the lion, you and me!

Who was the founder of Cubism... Every student of art was made to say Henri Matisse!

Who was the author of surrealism... The one and only Dali!

Were the feats of such illustrious men, that no societies or communities gave rise to?

I was in pursuit of the sculptures of my master Michelangelo, a pursuit which I did relentlessly seeking out his works in every quarter of Art space and museum and wherever he stayed. This search brought me to Vienna, as I walked to the national museum, I chanced upon an innocuous, lesser known or unknown gallery called the ethnological museum. Here lay the magical, mythical art of the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, the best of such grand sculptural traditions. I stopped and stared, unbelievable, yet beholding the sculptural masters of the third world!

They were rich intense, strong and powerful, virtual residues of ancient collective spirits and embodiment of inherited knowledge.

With this visual feast I went to the Pompidou in Paris and joined a mile long queue to get glimpses of the pictures of Henri Matisse whose retrospective was going on. I was completely taken aback by the striking resemblance of the African sculptors in the Ethnological Museum and what I saw as the Work of Henri Matisse "Father of Cubism"

The truth is that Matisse derived his art from the African images, but the African sculptors will remain in the Dark Continent while dear Henri is busy founding the Cubist Empire. His works will sell as high Art and the work of the African sculptors will remain tribal, primeval, and will sell in the market as crafts and curios. And so I say to you:

As long as lions, have no historians; tales of history will glorify the hunter.

Thus in order that Art has to be universal it has to emanate from western Artopolis.

The power and potentiality of Art arising out of the complexities and richness of societies and nations of the southern world need not be considered, All artistic truth should be borne from a particular experience nurtured and flavored by the prevalent sense of beauty and morality! And by its sheer idea and strength of narration becomes universal. This is the built in democratic spirit of Art. Its capacity to go beyond its birthplace and space is Intrinsic, rendering itself universally appreciable and applaudable.

Why the discriminate?

Artistic truth is the universal truth. It is the present with deep a sense of history and becoming eternal. The Artist is creating in accordance with the laws of beauty.

What is beauty?

Is beauty the presence of angels from the heavens, the surrounding gods and goddesses of the market icons and the consumerist pantheon? Or is it the absence of poverty and hunger, of illnesses and diseases,

Beauty abounds in the elimination of the depravation of oppressive conditions of people, which creates ugliness for all.

No man is free until all men are free,

No man can be free in an ugly world

No world can be beautiful with its bowels full of squalor and struggle.

No Art can be beauteous, that cannot vanquish inequality.

Buddha could not be confined in the fort of calm. The abstract knowledge that was given to him in a pure state said nothing, meant nothing; neither did it make him an insensitive man. A funeral procession, one of death convinced him of the significance of life!

Art is not produced in the cosmos. It beholds humanity. It is created not only by the sweat and blood of our ancestors and our fathers and mothers and our children but also speaks for those who will inherit the earth.

Art is not Ideology, nor sociology. It is the emoted social consciousness of a gregarious society, Art is not individualistic but holistic containing within it, as the genetic grain a deep social collective will. Together with this element is the individual dimension of the artist, perfectly unique, distinct as black and white, from the other Art- knight!

Every Art produced in every land and from every people is Art, not more, not less!

It is not white, it is not black but brown aesthetics is what we want.

The color of the peoples of the world. The color of this earth, its trees!

We are in the age of Democracies, no place for dictators.

But dictators thrive in the name of democracy by the use of the highest value of Art. The power of Art to convince, its power to campaign, by its power to resurrect dead and insipid objects turning them into animated subjects of interest!

Its power to create and recreate adulation.

Money, possession, power separates

For Art is magic, Art unites

Charlie Chaplin united people by the power of his art

Hitler separated and killed people by the Art of his power!

Art doth raises the collective strength of the oppressed.

It unites and irons out differences.

I carved a 25 feet tall sculpture in Mursteg, Austria with refugee children from Yugoslavia, Together carved Bosnians, Kosovans, Croatians, Slovenians, Macedonians, Hungarians... Vietnamese on this sculpture I called 'Wir Sind eine familie von Gondwanaland' {we are one family from Gondwanaland}

A song can stop a war!

When Paul Robeson sang, two nations in the front stopped the war to listen to the great artist. And I sang again with the Bosnian-Kosovan children ...All the nations like banana, all the races like banana. This song the banana dream, says no matter who we are, what we are, how we are, what color we are, we all like to eat the banana!

Money makes art and art makes money.

The days of the patrons of high art is far from over. It is still in hot pursuit!

Art is speculation, like real estate. Wheeling and dealing and buying and selling.

When you pay one rupee in excess of the MRP for any car you are considered stupid! But if you have paid 25lakhs for a piece of art, you are a great respectable gentleman of high esteem! Your social status goes up in the ladder of success.

Catering to this demand are many market artists who can paint for the color of the drawing room or for the bathroom in all shades and hues. Thus blatantly denying the spiritual and intrinsic value of Art. And above all the invaluable soul of the Artist.

A lady from a renowned Gallery walked into my exhibition and said, "brilliant, very good, you are a very talented artist...," so saying she pulls out her chequebook and asks me, how much do you want for all this? And what did I say? The idealist in me was speaking.... "Sorry ma'am I am not selling vegetables, please come in, have a look at the works and tell me what you think and then perhaps we shall talk about the price!"

What then is the deeper meaning of the purpose of Art? Does Art have a noble cause?

Is the Artist nobler than the rest by the power of his creativity and expression? These questions have been asked a million times before, but have never lost its value or become irrelevant. Art as an expression of the social times reflects these conditions. The Artist prophesizing the future, champions the cause of the underprivileged, underdog, understanding that the unspoken, felt impulse of art is revolutionary. His anarchic state of dispossession and detachment, providing the objectivity needed to evaluate and paint the future! Vincent's attachment to the dispossessed prostitute helped him to create his intense works with his powerful strokes--

The role of art is not to provide a historical resolution of the problems or issues in question but to create a doubt in the mind of the viewer.
Why for exists a division of people on the basis of social position called caste?

Why does not this society consider the Dalits as people?

When all religions preach peace why should there be so much of conflict and killing in the name of religion? Who is the perfectly constructed man? Which race? Is there a standard?

Forty percent of the population are children, why are they not represented as well considered persona in the painted images? Out of the 400 million children living in India, one hundred million are working and street children producing 8 percent of the gross national product. Every tenth Indian is working child. To be sure it is the child who is closest to the experience of the Artist. Because apart from the artist, it is the child who can fantasize and dream, who can open out the gates of imagination and let flow through a river of ideas and high absurdity? The incessant struggle of the Artist is to reach that pure state of uncontrolled free expressions.

Can art and the artist be impervious to this important issue? Can we celebrate art without having said anything about children?

Can we deny our childhood? Or the deep yearning for childhood!

I say to you childrenize the world and save your self-everlasting death.

Childrenize the world, immortalize childhood and have long life

The Artist and his art will become eternal!

John Devaraj is a sculptor and artistic director of Janotsava, a Bangalore based NGO that involves underprivileged children in cultural activities and stages plays on children's issues. Janothsava takes its troupe to other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where children continue to be employed as labourers.

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