Mona Biswarupa

Please tell us briefly about you and your work. What makes your journey unique?

I am an art practitioner from Mayurbhanj, Odisha, currently living in Dubai with my family. I studied Fashion Design at NIFT New Delhi and later I went to pursue my Masters in Fashion and Textile Design from IED, Milan. I got an opportunity to work with some leading fashion houses in India, Italy as well as Dubai. After a tenure of over 15 years in the apparel industry, I realised that my true calling is Art and I left my design job to pursue my new journey in the field of Visual Arts. The majority of my artistic journey has been through self-learning. I am a student for life and I feel each day provides me with an opportunity to learn something new from it.
My art takes inspiration from nature, femininity and folk. My works have distinct reflections of my roots and culture.

Who has inspired you in your journey, and who have you considered as your guiding light?

I consider myself blessed to be born into a family that nurtured creativity and inspired curiosity. My parent's encouragement helped my siblings and me tremendously in shaping our creative sensibility. My father Sangram Keshari Mohanty is a renowned poet and lyricist who penned some timeless classics in Odia movies, like Ei jhuma jhuma golapi belare and kahana e phula kahana . My mother Mamata Mohanty is a teacher and an amazing cook. She is a soft-spoken person with tremendous inner strength. I learned a lot from both my parents. In our household, creativity was a part of our daily life. My elder sister is a Jhumar singer and my younger sister is a Chhow and Odishi dancer .My family, teachers and mentors have been my guiding light throughout my life. I am blessed to have amazing friends too who have encouraged and supported me always.

What is your most significant memory from your journey as an Artist & a Painter that you would like to share with our audience/readers?

There have been many significant milestones and events in my life.. some big and some really tiny but deep. One such incident that is engraved in my memory is from my childhood. I was in my primary school. One day I carried a small drawing of mine to the class and gave it to one of my friends. My other friends too wanted my drawings. Very clearly I remember, it was raining heavily that day and my friends walked down from school to our home, of course with their colourful umbrellas, to collect my drawings. The joy on their faces was beyond something I can describe. That is when I realised how powerful art is and what a difference it can make.. Giving joy to others through your work is a wonderful thing!!

Where did you get to showcase/exhibit your works for the first time at a national/global level? Any particular memories to share?

In 2012 while I still was in a design job, one of my artworks got selected for a juried exhibition at the Dubai Ladies Club. That gave me immense joy and encouragement.
A couple of years later when I left my job to pursue my journey as a full-time artist, I exhibited my work at the World Art Dubai exhibition. When the curator of the show, saw my work.. without even knowing where I am from, he said ' your artwork teleported me to Odisha, where are you from? That day I realised how an artist can become an ambassador of his or her culture and roots and spread joy and positivity all around the world.

Which is your favourite among the various art & painting styles - from India and around the globe? Which artists/ painters are your favourites?

I don’t have one particular favourite, rather I admire something or the other in every artist. I admire the richness and childlike simplicity of all the folk art forms from around the world. During my design school days, I got introduced to some great artists' artworks and that left a lasting impression on my mind. Leonardo da Vinci, Gustav Klimt, Van Gogh,Toulouse Lautrec, Mark Rothko, Salvador Dali, Raja Ravi Verma, Juan Miro, S.H Raza, M.F Hussain, Amrita Shergil.. to name a few.

Who is your inspiration in the world of Art & Artists?

I take my inspiration from nature, folk and femininity. There is not a single artist whom I consider my role model. If I do so, I will be a variation of that artist.. not myself. My teacher, Late Sri Shyam Prasad Pattanaik held my hand and walked me into the beautiful world of art. He saw my creative potential before I realised I have any. My parents supported my journey and let me fly. Later in life after marriage, my husband has been a big support in my journey. He became my anchor and gave me the courage to sail into the unknown.

Do you have any other interests apart from painting? How do you like to spend your free(leisure) time?

Painting is my work as well as my leisure time activity. That is the most unique aspect of following your passion and making it your profession, you don't need to take a break! However, I really enjoy cooking, writing poetry, listening to music, gardening and spending time in the lap of nature...doing nothing and just soaking in her beauty.

Your favourite Odia food ?Everything !! :) A simple home-cooked meal is my all-time favourite.. And especially if it is made by my mother (Bou).. I love pakhala, Mudhi , Chuda-dahi or Bhata-machha .. almost all Odia dishes. And who isn't fond of Mahaprasad? I love seasonal vegetables. Anything cooked in homely style and served with love is delicious and precious!!

Your favourite Odia festival?

Rathyatra, Durga puja, Kumar purnima, Makara, Raja

Your favourite Odia book and your favourite author?

I am a big fan of short stories and poetry. I used to be a voracious reader in my childhood... My father had a lovely and huge collection of books. In winters he used to spread them in the courtyard sun to protect them from mould and moisture .. and the courtyard used to turn into an open-air library. I read many books but can't recall their names or authors. I like reading my father's poems and lyrics.....In my earlier days, I enjoyed reading short stories from The Jhankaar magazine and Saptahiki magazine.

Your favorite Odia song?

Bande Utkala Janani, Dhali dia sara dharani re aji, Ei je bana lata pahada , Ei jhuma juma golapi belare and Hudayara ei sunyata ku are some of my absolute favorite odia songs.

Your favorite sport/game; any fond memories from childhood?

As kids we hardly played with store-bought plastic toys. We played Kandhei bahaghara with Jau Kandhei bought from Ratha Jatra and many times made our own clay dolls (mati kandhei). Every evening after school, neighbourhood friends gathered at one place and we played all sorts of games from hide and seek to farming.
I had a really amazing and beautiful childhood. I still draw a lot of inspiration for my work from those days.

Your favorite travel destination and memory from Odisha?

I still recall my excitement when I saw the big waves in Puri for the first time. My trip to Shimilipal still is a memorable event.

Which illustrious/memorable personality from Odisha (India) has inspired you & why?

For inspiration, I didn’t have to look far as my father inspired me a lot. I got a chance to meet and interact with many notable Odia musicians early in life, and their talent and generosity inspired me. Saroj Pattanayak, Radhakrishna Bhanj, Prafulla Singhdeo to name a few. My hometown Baripada has produced may notable personalities.. Notable musician Shantanu Mohapatra, fine artist Jatin Das , Actor Mihir Das and Uttam Mohanty inspired many, including me. I consider fashion designer Bibhu Mohaptra too as my source of inspiration. These personalities inspire me to excel at whatever I am doing.

What are your thoughts on how to spread awareness about Odisha’s glorious culture & heritage to more & more people - esp. the younger generation?

The fragrance of Odisha’s glorious cultural heritage and artistic excellence has not remained confined to the land. Today the world is aware of the beauty that Odisha is. If each Odia becomes an ambassador for 'Brand Odisha', the wind of the internet and social media can carry the fragrance of odisha and spread it far and beyond.

What, according to you, is the role of Odias living abroad to strengthen Odisha?

Odisha is not only the geography, but every single Odia is a part of that equation. When each Odia achieves his or her full potential, the whole state will reach great heights in every field. Each Odia carries a fragment of Odisha wherever he or she goes. Odias living outside the state and country have a bigger role to play. They are the representatives of our culture and roots in a global space.

Do you see any differences between the Odisha of your childhood and Odisha now?

Our cities, towns and villages have gone through a transformation definitely. Landscapes are gradually turning modern from rustic rural imagery. The number of vehicles has increased tremendously and our cities have become noisy... However, if you look at the positives, our infrastructures have become more modern with better roads and public facilities. If I compare the psyche of the demography, I feel today's Odisha is progressive, eager to learn, enthusiastic and aware. We dare to dream big dreams and we dare to chase them.
There was a time people knew Odisha for its devastating cyclones. Now people know Odisha for its effective disaster management. And that is what change should look like !!

Your Dream Odisha 2050?

I see Odisha of 2050 as the cleanest state in the country, plastic-free and greenest. I dream of Odisha as a tolerant and welcoming place that tops every globetrotter's travel bucket list. An attractive tourist destination that focuses on being a glo-cal hub of cultural activities like dances, arts ,music and inner rejuvenation. Excellent education, Organic farming, state of the art sports facilities, startups, zero unemployment and financial independence of women are a few points for which Odisha will become an example for the whole nation. I dream of an Odisha where Odias earn many international accolades in every possible field and make the country proud.

What is your message for the young artists from Odisha, especially the girls and women, and all who are reading this?

Life is short. We are here for a brief period of time and for a purpose. Find that purpose and try your best to fulfil it. Leave some happy footprints behind when you leave this planet.
Life is too short to work on those hundred of drawbacks that we have... I believe each one of us is blessed with at least one gift ... Recognize it !! Instead of looking around and comparing yourself with others, work on your gift and make it stronger... Don't walk on someone else's footprints... that way you will only be the second-best. Be you, be original. You are unique. Preserve that uniqueness, because it is a divine gift.
For all the women reading this, I have one message. For us ladies, it is very very natural to put everyone else before us. That is fine because giving is more empowering than receiving. But do not sacrifice yourself and your inner happiness for others. Every single day, give yourself that privilege of your 'me-time', a sacred time that no one takes away from you. Invest in you.. in your health, in your wellbeing and your fulfilment.

And now for the last question… If you got a chance to revisit your past, what would you like to do?

Recently while reading the biography of Steve Jobs, I came across a line which I have believed in from my very early life. It is about joining the dots... Jobs says you can't join dots by looking into the future it can happen only when you look back. What we are today, is because of those dots .. By dots, he meant events and the choices that we made in our lives. What we are today is the sum total of all actions and events of the past. If I go back and try to change anything from those events, my present may look very different. I have believed in embracing life with open arms.. be it happiness or joy. I think my pain, my joys, my losses and my victory, all are a part of me. I would not want to change anything. If I get a chance to go back into my past, I would love to hug my loved ones a bit more. I would be more aware to soak in the beauty of life at every stage. Probably I would want to stretch those carefree childhood days a bit more.

REFERENCES:Various Sources

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