The first art Lalnunvula Khiangte set eyes on was the draft of a house his father had drawn on the back of their calendar when he was about five years old. As Khiangte and his family were living in a rented space at their village in Mizoram’s Mamit, it was his father’s dream to have a house of their own someday, so he sketched out his dream on the back of their calendar.

“Seeing my father’s passion and his drawings encouraged me to pursue my passion. I spent more time with my art than I did with friends,” said Khiangte. He used to scribble and express his passion on paper under a petromax lantern as they did not have access to electricity.

Khiangte wanted to find a living through art but his father wanted his son to complete his Bachelor degree. And to afford a course in Art, which was only available outside of the state, was beyond their means. So he went on to complete his Bachelors in History and continued to work on his passion during his free time.

It took almost ten years to finally build their house and bring his father’s sketches to life and, it took over twenty years for Khiangte, who is better known by his art name “Jackal”, to realise his dream and become the first person to solo-curate a self-funded art exhibition in the state.

Lalnunvula Khiangte

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An exhibition-themed ‘Bond: Beyond Borders’, which was held from August 29 to 31 in Aizawl, is the third exhibition he has self-funded and organised. Khiangte founded the organisation Studio 8, to set the exhibition in motion and it took ten months to put his plans in place. He handpicked eight artists from the state who he believed would be able to best portray the theme through their art. The artists were given two months to come up with five original artworks on the theme.

‘Bond: Beyond Borders’ aspires to bridge borders and transcend the views on people’s relationships with stories, things, people, concepts, way of life, and their general view on art.

It aims to focus on the surreal and the abstract over the more commonly emphasized realism-based landscapes in Mizoram. As per the exhibition website, the purpose of ‘Bond: Beyond Borders’ is to emphasize, “…what artists perceive in the ordinary, in the surreal, and in the abstract rather than the realism-based landscapes and portraits sanctioned and promoted in the mainstream art styles in Mizoram. Today, art is expected to be one thing, and the rest of a creator’s works are often dismissed. ‘Real’ art and ‘not-real’ art is often separated by a line drawn due to our misconceptions of art and the artists themselves. Today, the eyes of our society have living clichés in its view of art, dismissing modern, virtual, and street art, the nuance of abstract and surrealism, the intricacy of futurism and cubism. This would not be problematic if it did not have a negative impact on the value of such paintings in the public eyes as its value gets tremendously lower than the traditional artworks which are put on the pedestal. The outcome of such overestimation is the higher demand for traditional artworks, resulting in artists’ difficulty in enjoying most of their commissioned works. Bond: Beyond Borders will try to bridge that gap, maybe go across it, and incur a consciousness of art in the minds of those who wish to see what has never been the status quo but paradoxically hoping that people come with an open mind, hoping to see a lot but nothing specific…To break apart the gate they keep on art, where (to the status quo) it should be about showing close to the life-like paintings of a place without much context or portraits of religious idols. To hold new ground for a new wave of art, and hopefully create a demand for such art. That we may make a living ourselves in the things we love doing.”

The three-day exhibition received a great response, “It is really difficult to self-fund an exhibition but if I don’t do it, it will remain undone. I have been waiting for someone to organise an exhibition like this, but I decided that I would be the one who makes it happen. I have a lot of plans, I want to organise a workshop, and I want to introduce online courses. We do not have a single art institute in the state and we do not have art critics who can help us improve our art. I want to break the boundaries. I find that the world of art in our state is very dark so my dream is that people might find hope through Studio8, that they might be able to do what I could not do and pursue their dream,” he told EastMojo.

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Explaining why the art pieces in the exhibition were hung on a thin piece of rope, Khiangte said, “We want to highlight our life as independent artists. We do not have stability. We do not have anyone to fall back on, we are just hanging on a thread and it is not easy.”


One of the eight artists in the exhibition is Rivca, a twenty-six-year-old English teacher who found her passion in art at the young age of three. Five of her art pieces are displayed in the exhibition where she tells stories of bonds shared between people, stories of freedom, of fantasy and reality, self-expression and the concept of time.

“There were a lot of people of our age group who visited the exhibition and they appreciated the art beyond our expectations. Art is subjective and the message intended by the artist should not be taken at face value by the viewers. The viewers have the power to interpret their own meanings. However, they were able to create their own meanings and appreciate the intended message of the works to a certain extent,” she said.

Reuben Lalmsalsawma, a research scholar in the Mass Communication department at Mizoram University and a renowned photographer, was one of the visitors. “The main reason I went was that as a videographer and photographer I see myself as an artist. I want to improve my art taste and learn to appreciate art better as I believe it is connected with my work.”

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“Also, as my research includes a study on the western influence on the Mizo culture, I see that through the western influence we are led to purchase and indulge in products of the Western culture but real profit does not go to our people or our land. So I believe it is important to promote and support the local economy through our artists. I even brought my first art piece at the exhibition,” he said.

While the government has often organised exhibitions and workshops in partnership with independent curators and artists from the state, Khiangte believes there is much more they could do, “Sometimes it seems like these workshops and exhibitions are organised as a formality. Many of them are government funded and are seen as ‘projects’ that need to be completed.”

Bazik Thlana, a visual artist currently pursuing his PhD in visual studies and an Assistant Professor at Mizoram University also agreed that it is time that Mizo artists have a platform beyond government-funded programs, “First of all, I was really pleased to see young artists and young curators coming together to make an exhibition which can be seen as a first and important step towards claiming agency. I find that gesture to be liberating more than individual works. Besides, it is a self-funding exhibition which is rare in Mizoram because we rely too much on government agencies like MADS(Mizoram Art Development Society) without which a platform for expression is often perceived as next to impossible. Many of the artists are also quite experimental and the medium used and forms of expression is a breath of fresh air, as I see an active attempt to challenge the norms of representation prevalent in our visual culture in the Mizo art scene. The agency is important because it liberates the artists from certain imposition (consciously or subconsciously) to have the need to represent culture or identity from a statist agenda.”

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