An art residency in heart of Punjab’s Malwa keeps spirit of Sufi poet-philosopher Bulleh Shah alive

Two people have taken an out-of-the -ordinary initiative to set up a multidisciplinary art residency programme in Muktsar — London-based sculptor-painter Kanwal Dhaliwal and applied artist Preetinder Singh Bajwa.

punjab Updated: Feb 15, 2018 10:27 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Muktsar
art residency,Punjab,Malwa
Preetinder Singh Bajwa’s house that he has renamed ‘Deorhi Bulleh Shah’ in Muktsar. (HT Photo)

Two boys from Malout in Punjab’s Muktsar district who graduated from Chandigarh’s Government College of Art in the troubled year of 1984 have taken up an out-of-the -ordinary initiative to set up a multidisciplinary art residency programme in the town of Muktsar. They are London-based sculptor-painter Kanwal Dhaliwal and applied artist Preetinder Singh Bajwa, who made his home here after several years of farming in the village.

A three-day residency that concluded this Sunday had an interactive group of artists, writers, academicians and musicians painting, reading, watching films and playing music.

How did it all happen? Preetinder renamed his home to ‘Deorhi Bulleh Shah’ (deorhi is Punjabi for entrance), in reverence to the Sufi poet-philosopher, for the occasion. “When we went from the cotton heartland to study art, a new world opened up before us. We came across painters, writers, theatre activists and intellectuals,” he says, “I had to come back to Malout to till my land, but kept taking small initiatives to invite friends and work together.”

“We wanted to create something permanent so that young people are exposed to the arts, and their energies are channelled,” says Kanwal, who held a display of his ‘Village’ series of sculptures and drawings.

Two academics from Mysore — Kamakshi Balasubramanian, a writer of English and teacher of the Slavic language, and Mohan Raj, scholar of science communication and journalism — took the opportunity.

“They had long wanted to experience rural Punjab; and we wanted to benefit from their skills and varied experience,” says Preetinder. Several other local people were special invitees.

Artists who took part in the three-day residency at Preetinder Singh Bajwa’s house that he has renamed ‘Deorhi Bulleh Shah’ in Muktsar. (HT Photo)

The residency included film shows followed by discussions, readings, a calligraphy demonstration and a musical performance. Punjabi poet Lok Nath, who held a reading, says: “It was wonderful. People responded very well.” Others who read included Kamakshi, Rajwinder Raja, a short story writer from Moga, and poet Sukhdev Matharoo from Malout.

Calligraphy demonstration by local school teachers Sahib Singh, Rimpa Brar and Chhinderpal evoked a lot of interest, as did their rendering of poems of celebrated Punjabi poets like Avtar Paash. They teach local students the art of the quill and ink.

Kanwal says, “We hope to make this an annual event, adding dimensions.” He adds that while Malwa region of Punjab may be considered backward, “it has given good writers and artists”. “The residency will help nurture the young”.

Preetinder , who has been coaching students keen on joining art colleges and all for a lark, says: “Artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers are all welcome to take short residencies all year around. Deorhi Bulleh Shah is open to all creative people.”

First Published: Feb 15, 2018 10:27 IST