During the European Research Commission ‘Coastal Frontiers’ project field visitto West Bengal, Sundarbans (2012-13), I interviewed many public intellectuals, poets, sculptures, writes, NGO patrons who have lived and worked among the people of the delta. One among them was the Oriya sculpture and painter KsitishBishal. He was an outstanding personality very cheerful, full with life; co-operative and courteous middle aged man.
Photograph 1 Asivasi women performing tushi dance in the Sundarbans
His forefathers settled in the delta region some one hundred years ago. He was born in Gosaba and studied fine arts atRobindroBharati University, Shanteniketan. Over the past forty years he has been painting sketches that capture the very edifice of rural life in the Sundarban. His portraits cover subaltern themes like- adivasiwomens, fakirs, mangrove forest, coastal water and country boat. His paintings have been displayed widely both in Indian and abroad. His style belongs toBengal art. Besides being an accomplished painter he is a sculpture and curator. He does clay modelling, plaster casting, wall painting, terra cotta, port painting, batik painting, fabric painting and cement plaster.
Photograph 2:Boats and Boatman in the Sundarbans
His interest in archaeology has encouraged him to set up private museums in Canning- MatlaAnchalikPratnaSangrahasala, that hold artefacts from pre-historic to the contemporary period. He has in his museum collection a Bible printed in Bengali during 1843. According to KitishBishal only three copies of the Bible is currently available in India.
Photograph 3 Sundarban women catching bagda min (baby Shrimp)
He also has in his depositary unique idols, pottery, terra cotta entries, animal horns, teeth, manuscripts, books and photographs from the Hamilton Zamindari. He now heads anart school- “Shrabastee Society of Art and Culture”-and is the acting principal.In his pass time he does painting, writes article and collects new artefacts for his museum.
Photograph 4. Portrait of a fakir (pir) in Sundarban
Tourists, researchers, academicians, painters and people interested in the regions art, history, culture and colonial past frequently visit his home. He has great knowledge of the littoral region and his museum is a reflection of his creativity and hard work.Ithank his treasured contribution to the neglected and marginal region of the Bay of Bengal that comes live in his paintings.A couple of his paintings are attached below for readers to see his creativity and ground breaking scholarship.
(This research has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 284053, for the project Coastal Frontiers: Water, Power, and the Boundaries of South Asia, led by Dr Sunil Amrith as Principal Investigator)
Dr. Debojyoti Das , Birkbeck, University of London