Meet Ashrika Mukhi, the Madhubani artist of our "Shakti" painting. We ask Ashrika about her creative journey and what keeps her going.
Can you tell us a little bit about Madhubani art and how you got interested in it?
Madhubani art is one of the many Indian folk arts that I create in my own style. Madhubani paintings are also commonly known as Mithila paintings due to their origins in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. Madhubani art is a traditional Indian folk art made on canvas, cloth or cow dung-washed hand paper. Natural dye and colors are typically used in the creation of Madhubani artwork, with geometrical figures and vibrant colors being key elements. I appreciate Madhubani art because of its deep history and variety of styles, including Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar. In the 1960s, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik styles were mainly created by Brahmin and Kayashth women, who are "upper caste" women in India and Nepal. Their themes centered on religion, commonly depicting gods and goddesses in various forms. Historically, people of "lower castes" incorporated aspects and symbols of their daily life in their Madhubani paintings, like the story of Raja Shailesh (guard of a village), for example.
When did you start painting?
Painting has always been my escape from the mundane. But I started doing it professionally this year when the world got struck by a pandemic, which gave me ample time to finally explore my style of art.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration is my endeavor to make a conscious effort to bring traditional elements of different Indian folk arts together with the contemporary ones.
What’s your day job?
I am an international flight attendant.
What motivates you to keep creating?
My biggest motivation is, of course, the appreciation that my work receives. Any artist feels highly encouraged when their work is recognized. People buying my paintings and leaving positive comments on my pieces always motivates me. Also, my partner is my biggest cheerleader.
How do you think we can better preserve dying folk art forms such as Madhubani art?
The answer to this question is very simple: buying art! Buying art from local artists who are creating traditional folk art is what will keep the traditions alive. In India there are thousands of artists and artisans who might not be getting the recognition or the platform they deserve but are still professionally creating and preserving Madhubani art. Buying from them is a way to keep the legacy alive.
Name three artists that inspire you. (Historical, pop cultural, etc.)
Bharti Dayal and Vidushini Prasad, who are both Madhubani artists. Also, Paul Nicklen’s photography.
What obstacles do you face on a daily basis?
Finding the correct audience for my art, on social media. Instagram and other platforms are broad, and finding an audience that understands the hard work that goes into creating handmade pieces is a challenge for me. I have been very fortunate that Arjuna found my work on social media and we connected. I guess I got lucky!