Arunachal's first-ever artist residency, set in the small hill town of Basar, has big ambitions

This month, the quaint hill town of Basar will host an art residency that is being pitched as Arunachal Pradesh’s first.

Five artists across creative disciplines have been selected to be part of the nearly month-long residency during which they are expected to create a collaborative work. At the end of the residency, they will present their work at the Basar Confluence, held over 22-23 February — a grand cultural celebration where locals as well as visitors join in.

The residency is an initiative of a local non-profit organisation called the Gumin Rego Kilaju (GRK), whose objective is to promote the unique heritage and community of Basar.

Speaking with Firstpost, Jummar Basar, an organiser with GRK, said:

“The idea of this residency is to bring the focus on Basar — especially from a niche, discerning section of population. The artists (who have been selected for the residency) are expected to create a collaborative work and the only brief they are being given, is to draw from their surroundings and to give back to Basar… What we are doing here is to project Basar as a place for creative energy and using that, we hope to bring the town into (the) mainstream consciousness. What's most notable is that nothing of this sort has ever been done before in this part of the world, which makes it so much more exciting and interesting.”

Basar is a quaint hill town set in the geographical centre of Arunachal Pradesh

Basar is a quaint hill town set in the geographical centre of Arunachal Pradesh

Among the artists chosen for the residency are Paul Schneiter (musician), Sawani Kumar (a painter), Raghavendra Madhu (poet) and photographer Chandan Ahuja. Jummar Basar told us that it was a deliberate decision to keep the residency multi-disciplinary, rather than focusing on any one form or artistic endeavour: “It was to facilitate a multispectral exploration and exposure… It was conceptualised on the note that artists from various fields could come together and draw inspiration from the place and its people and present it to the outside world.”

At a time when art residencies are mushrooming across India, what sets the one in Basar apart? For GRK, the answer lies in the location itself: Basar, located at the geographic centre of Arunachal Pradesh, is home to the Galos, one of the 26 major tribes of the state. The land is serene, untouched, and for the most part unexplored; the community is rich in folklore. Basar is noted for its wet rice cultivation, as well as its pineapple and orange orchards. The nearest big town — Aalo — is around 50 km away.

“The artists are being hosted in a totally different ambience — that is, a completely traditional set up of one of the major tribes of the state. People pay to experience this, but this is just the opposite,” said Jummar Basar.

The residency (which kicked off on 1 February) is only one part of the experience. Its culmination in the Basar Confluence is what would be of interest to most people.

During the Basar Confluence, you can see locals engaging in traditional fishing

During the Basar Confluence, you can see locals engaging in traditional fishing

The Basar Confluence (BasCon) kicks off with the Galo harvest festival Mopin. The festival is observed the way the ‘first man’ Abo Tani paid homage to the Goddess for a bountiful harvest — with folk dancing, music, and lots of feasting! On the second day of the festivities (23 February), there is traditional fishing, storytelling, and a theatre production by National School of Drama alumni Riken Ngomle, among other activities. And because no celebration is complete without music, there’s the rather more contemporary series of gigs by artistes like Neel Adhikari, Prateek Kuhad and the rock band Menwhopause.

The idea behind the confluence is to bring in people from all over the world to experience the rich tradition and culture of Basar while showcasing a slice of the world to the locals. The local community is directly involved in organising the festival and the proceeds are shared amongst the members.

Meanwhile, GRK has ambitious plans for the Basar art residency. “In the next few years, this could be one of the most prominent programmes in the region, in fact in the country,” said Jummar Basar. “It offers the perfect ambience for serious and innovative minds to open up and bring out the best in themselves, while working with artists from different fields in a new environment.”

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Updated Date: Feb 05, 2017 10:30:20 IST

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