Naga artist Akup Buchemhu working on a painting Credit: EastMojo image
Akup Buchemhu’s painting titled ‘Together’ shows 17 Naga shawls being tied to a knot and symbolises unity among the various Naga tribes  

Kohima: At a time when the decades-old Naga peace talks have reached a peak, Akup Buchemhu ‘s recent artwork — which fosters unity among the various tribes inhabiting the region — is winning hearts.

The 34-year-old visual artist’s painting shows 17 Naga shawls being tied to a knot and symbolises unity among the various Naga tribes.

Based in Dimapur, Buchemhu’s recent participation at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (GoCA) camp in Kohima inspired him to paint the piece of art. Recounting it, he told EastMojo, “Everyone was from different tribe and was unique on his or her own. We communicated in English or Nagamese and we ate, worked and slept together. The environment was of peace. So, the thought that came to my mind was being ‘together’ — what, if we always live in peace and harmony under on roof with no comparison among the tribes. In short, a strong knot.”

Buchemhu used to draw on paper, sand and carve on wood. “In my family blood line, there is no one who practises art. But at an early age, I was introduced to such works. I still have vivid memories of helping my mom in weaving shawls, sitting on the opposite side, drawing thread into the loom with my siblings,” said Buchemhu, who discovered this passion at the age of 13 years.

Buchemhu told EastMojo that his works are based on memories and history. He recounted that ‘Together’ was initially planned to be a monochrome. “I have improvised on it and the thought behind this work was to bring everyone together at one point, irrespective of tribes, language and region,” he said.

No wonder, just a day before the three-month deadline on the Naga peace talks ended, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party secretary general Abu Metha tweeted: “A beautiful painting of Naga shawls by Akup Bhuchem named “Together”. Sends out the right message at this crucial time in our history when the #Naga family MUST come together.”

Talking about the 3×4 ft art, which was recognised for its timely creation, Buchemhu said: “It is a co-incidence. For the past 12 years, I have been doing a series of works on the title ‘Together’ in different styles and media. My recent work at GoCA stood strong and it was highlighted because of the issue of [Naga] peace talks. I thank and praise God. This work is a reminder that we are all one.”

In the artwork, the shawls of 17 tribes — Ao, Angami, Chang, Chakhesang, Konyak, Khiamniungan, Kachari, Lotha, Mao, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sumi, Sangtam, Tangkhul, Yimchunger and Zeliang — are seen tied as one.

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“For me, art is meditative,” he said, adding: “It is fun and I just let things comes out naturally and enjoy the process. But if a thought strikes me, I study, research and analyse before finalising it.”

Besides painting and sketching, Buchemhu also loves to share ideas, write and sing.

Buchemhu is a post graduate in Fine arts with specialization in Sculpture at Rabindra Bharati university, Kolkata and a Degree in fine arts from Indra Kala Sangit university, Khairagarh, Chhattisgarh. He also teaches at Wotsa Fine arts and Training Institution in Dimapur.

Through art, Buchemhu wishes to inspire, and question the notion of one’s existence. “I also believe art can be taught skillfully and create employment. Art cannot be neglected. Without art, life is still. It is the only source that documents and archives human activities within the time frame of life and death,” he said.

“As a storyteller, connecting through art is very special because art has the power to unite and reconnect time — past or present. It is a visual treat and neutralises our body system,” added Buchemhu, who also runs an NGO called ‘Neu! Naga Foundation For The Arts’, providing a platform for emerging artists by creating art awareness programmes, seminars, art camps, and so on.

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