Brush with tribal tradition

LOHARDAGA: Lodher Oraon is on a mission to revive traditional tribal art and values with his paintings. As a child, he grew up in the lap of nature and had as his painting tools stems, sand, grass, wild flowers and leaves. There was no canvas, paint or brush. But nature unfurled its storehouse to little Lodher to choose his palette and tools from. This is how it all started in an obscure village called Nagjua, a km north-east from the Nagjua railway station on the Lohardaga-Ranchi rail rout under Bhandra block in Lohardaga. First it was a hobby, later a profession and now a mission.

Son of a tiller, Vijay Oraon, Lodher has always been rooted to mother earth and it's only natural that he would want to resurrect the traditions of the people of the soil.

In his childhood, he drew inspiration from his uncle who would paint pictures on the outer walls of houses during marriages. This wall art is known as Gohbar' in Jharkhand. The painting on the wall signifies there's a marriage ceremony in that particular house.

"I was a like a shepherd who would spend hours by the river with his cattle. I would draw on the sand by the river with the help of sticks," said Lodher who did primary schooling in his village, high school in Nadia Lohardaga, Intermediate in Marvari College, Ranchi, and then joined Ranchi College where he did his graduation, then PG in History and Kudukh, a tribal language. He did his B Ed from Chakradharpur and has recently appeared for NET.

His paintings of tribal gods Sarna and Chala are visible in tribal homes. As programme officer of Jan Shikshan Sansthan of Human Resource Department, he lives in Ranchi presently. Although his paintings have been appreciated at the national level, he is yet to receive any official recognition by way of awards.

He crafted 18 idols in collaboration with artist Kanchan Kerketta under the directions of noted tribal artist Henry Kerketta. The idols depicted tribal life of all the five tribes of Jharkhand: Oraon, Munda, Ho, Santhali and Khadia. These works are in the Gumla Museum. Apart from creating life-size statues of Jharkhand freedom fighter Telanga Khadia, Kargil martyr Birsa Oraon's relief work and Samadhi art, Lodher has recorded folk songs. He has also written several poems in tribal languages.

Noted tribal artists Dilip Toppo and Henry Kerketta helped him to get noticed at the national level. "Dilip Toppo helped me to get the work of making cutouts and hoardings that fetched me pocket money in my days of struggle," said Lodher.