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International Roerich Memorial Trust Marks Founder’s Anniversary

On October 22, 2017, the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) celebrated the 113th anniversary of its founder, Dr. Svetoslav Roerich, the renowned artist, scholar and social figure, and the younger son of Nicholas and Helena Roerich.

The day started with the shanti puja in his memory conducted near the Roerich Memorial House by the venerable pujari from the Krishna Temple in Naggar. The puja included fire ceremony, which was enthusiastically participated in by visiting artists and guests of the festivities.

The special day was marked by the inauguration of the painting and sculpture exhibition by the members of three organizations promoting contemporary Indian art: Himachal Art Heritage, Sundernagar, Himachal Pradesh; Artfort India, Chandigarh; and Verman Cultural Celebration, Jammu. The exhibition showcased the works by 18 artists from various parts of India, and six foreign participants from Russia, Poland and South Korea.

The exhibition displayed a number of landscapes, abstract and conceptual works, visions of urban architecture, photographs, drawings, a woodcut print, a collage, and a surrealistic sculpture piece. “The main aim of the exhibition is sharing of art experience and bringing young and senior artists together,” said Prabhinder Lall, Secretary, Artfort India, Chandigarh. The exhibition was also meant as homage to the founder and president of Himachal Art Heritage Naveen Dhiman whose untimely demise was mourned by the artistic community this July. The opening of the exhibition was followed by a three-day workshop joined by five participants of the exhibition.

On the same occasion, the exhibition of paintings by the Himachal-based Israeli artist Kelly Mor entitled “Authentic Himalayan Art” was inaugurated in the Exhibition Hall, IRMT. Having travelled around India, the artist eventually settled in the Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh. The experience of living in Himachal profoundly altered her life and art, and significantly brightened her palette.

The exhibition displayed a number of her recent Himalayan landscapes and portraits of local people. Mor’s landscapes, most of which depict the actual locations visited by the artist, strike one with their intense colours and twisted forms expressive of the inner tension and might of the Himalayas. She describes her portraits as a “homage to all those who preserve traditional culture.” With a considerable attention to detail she portrays the real people from the remote areas of the Himalayan belt: brides laden with traditional jewelry, women doing their daily chores, dancers performing at local festivals, participants of religious processions and fairs, etc.

Mor’s interest in the nature and culture of the Himalayas, her glimpses of traditional architecture and the overall ethnographic direction of her art at this point bring to one’s mind the Himalayan series of Svetoslav Roerich himself who observed, loved and praised in his canvases the common men of India trying to capture in brushstrokes their inner beauty and harmony.

This was followed by the official programme. In his welcome address, the Indian Curator of the IRMT Mr. Ramesh Chander dwelled on the importance and value of the traditional and contemporary Indian art, while the Russian Curator of the IRMT Mrs. Larisa Surgina familiarized the guests of the festivities with the biography of Svetoslav Roerich, throwing light on his activities as a scientist and public figure. She stressed the deep Indian connection that characterized his life, both professional and private (he was married to the cinema star of yesteryear Devika Rani who stood by his side for almost 50 years being his associate and source of inspiration, and took active part in the setting up of the International Roerich Memorial Trust in Naggar). Mr. Jang S. Verman, President, Verman Cultural Celebration, Jammu, greeted the guests and participants of the festival on behalf of his organization and the artists present, and thanked the IRMT management for the opportunity to hold the exhibition and workshop on such a memorable and special date.

The teachers and students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children managed by the IRMT put together an inspiring cultural programme wishing to remind the audience of the importance of traditional performing arts and cultural cooperation between India and Russia. The programme, which started as per tradition with the prayer to the goddess of learning Sarasvati, included a fusion of three Indian regional folk dances (Rajasthani Ghumar, Gujarati Gharva and the joyful North Indian Dandiyan, or dance with sticks) performed by the young students of the academy; a tabla solo and a vocal recital by the Academy teachers, a popular Russian folk dance Kalinka with the lyrics impeccably and naturally sung by Indian children, and a semi-classical dance recital by the Academy dance teacher. During the programme, the local social activist Mrs. Som Lata Thakur recited her poetic compositions drawing attention of the audience to the plight of women and children in modern society.

Festivities closed with the Kulvi Nati, the traditional local rhythmic circular dance started by the Academy students and subsequently joined by all those present: visiting artists, IRMT staff, Russian guests of the festivities and museum visitors, in a wonderful example of cultural fusion and celebration. The day proved a worthy closure of this year’s IRMT cultural festival “India-Russia-the Roerichs.”