Indelible Legacy of Colonial Suppression

At a time when India is about to celebrate seventy five years of Independence from the British imperialism, and the golden jubilee celebration of the Statehood for Meghalaya, there is still a shrouded legacy of colonial suppression by certain obnoxious functionaries in the government authorities, which drastically affected the sentiment, reputation and credential of the well educated and highly skilled local artists of the State. It is a historic moment and a proud privilege that the larger than life size statue of U Tirot Sing Syiem, who had challenged the British imperialist since 1829, prior to the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 is being erected at Mairang.

However, the making of the Tirot Sing Syiem monument was a discreet endeavour of certain vested interest to deprive and discriminate against the home-grown artists. Conspicuously, the spirit of India@75 and the golden jubilee of the State of Meghalaya is defeated, when the proficiency and expertise of the legible and qualified artists of the State are being humiliated, ignored and discriminated through such insensitive acts of aristocracy and dominance with deliberate negligence.

Furthermore, the accurate ethnic element and authentic local flavour is deteriorated due to complacency and ignorance of the people in the corridor of power. This passive immature action is a mockery and irreparable disgrace for the privilege and honour of the State. The monument of iconic figures in the likes of U Tirot Sing Syiem deserve a thorough intellectual scrutiny, aesthetic dexterity and genuine folk elements.

It may be recalled that since the inception of Riti Academy of Visual Arts in 1991, the legendary folk music exponent (Late) Skendrowell Syiem and the present Syiem of Hima Nongkhlaw, Phrestar Manik Syiem have had discussions on certain aspects of honourable tribute to the prominent freedom fighter of the country, U Tirot Sing Syiem of Hima Nongkhlaw with some kind of suitable memorial contribution. However, due to lack of financial resources the purpose was temporarily put on hold. Ultimately, in 2016 there was prospective development and Riti Academy prepared a design for a suitable heritage site with potential knowledge of history, folklore and artistry. Consequently, the inspection was conducted in the presence of the Syiem of Hima Nongkhlaw on 9 August 2016 and few meetings at the office of the Hima at Mairang and at the office of Riti Academy in Shillong. Unfortunately, the entire project was seized and exploited by some unscrupulous people in power and the Syiem admitted helplessness and ignorance of the entire process.

In this connection, the Chairman of Riti Academy met the local MLA of Mairang Constituency and Speaker of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, Shri Metbah Lyngdoh for clarification, in view of the fact that Mairang is the District Headquarter where the great patriot, Tirot Sing Syiem of the erstwhile Hima Nongkhlaw is situated. Accordingly, we were informed that the statue was acquired from the Arts and Culture Department, Government of Meghalaya. However, the Director of Arts and Culture was not aware about it and instead it was later clarified that the statue was acquired from Urban Affairs Department and the remaining task was facilitated by the Tourism Department, Government of Meghalaya for an amount of around Rupees Sixty Lakh . Interestingly, there are many qualified artists in the State including some versatile artists from Mairang itself. Therefore, the art fraternity of Meghalaya is sad and confused about the entire affairs of betrayal of trust by the guardians of the citizens of the State.

One of the senior artists, Shri Raphael Warjri is a recipient of Meghalaya State Award for Arts and Literature, along with a prestigious collection of artworks at Raj Bhavan, North Eastern Hill University and other reputed organisations. Last year, the State Cabinet Ministers led by the honourable Chief Minister, Shri Conrad K Sangma along with the host, the former  Governor, Shri Tathagata Roy were distinguished dignitaries at the unveiling of the paintings of Freedom Fighters of The State. The Chief Art Director of Riti Academy, Raphael Warjri as one of the painters of the life size portraits of Freedom Fighters was also felicitated on the momentous occasion by His Excellency, the Governor of Meghalaya.

In spite of the aforementioned credible tasks of excellence, it appears that the art fraternity of the State is being hoodwinked by vested interests with ulterior motives to oppress the creative potential in the State. In view of the random conduct of matters pertaining to cultural structures in the State, the government should constitute a proper Cultural Policy involving professional stakeholders on culture to streamline the execution of aesthetic edifice with the yardstick of of proficient skill, credible experience and artistic excellence rather than the conventional economic feasibility prevalent in the government contractual works.

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