Sujata Tibrewala, current artist in residence at LFA, Chicago, celebrates the festival of Diwali through an eye-opening new exhibition

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Artist Sujata Tibrewala’s new exhibition at her Cupertino studio pays ode to Sita and other traditions also associated with Diwali

Sita's contribution is often overlooked while we celebrate Diwali

Diwali demonstrates that celebrations can be cohesive despite their diverse nature

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated each year around the autumn months is one of the most important festivals in India. Hindus all across the world mark the festival by decorating their houses with lighted candles and diyas (clay oil lamps) and performing a Lakshmi (Hindu Goddess of wealth) puja at home. Artist Sujata Tibrewala, on the occasion of Diwali has put up an exhibition that celebrates the many reasons behind this joyful festival of lights and crackers.

The festival that is also observed with an official holiday in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Singapore is traditionally a symbolic celebration to mark Hindu God Lord Rama’s return to his city from an exile. According to legend, King Dasharatha, sent his eldest son Rama, on a 14-year-old exile on behest of his favorite wife and Rama’s stepmother Kaikeyi. The festival celebrates the end of the exile period after which Rama along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman return to their kingdom, Ayodhya after some very trying years spent in jungles.

Ms Tibrewala believes that while there are some very important lessons to be picked up from this legend, she also feels that on Diwali overwhelmed by celebrating the return of the Lord, people often overlook the contribution his wife Sita made to the story of Ramayana. In the ongoing exhibition some of her works focus on the very strong female characters that formed the focal of these legends. An acrylic on canvas work titled Sita, remembers the steely demeanor of a young princess Sita, who according to the tale of Ramayana, at the age of over 2, could lift a famed bow and arrow that even the most able bodied men could not. When she reached the marriageable age, her father, King Janak, asked for the condition that the young eligible bachelor who would be able to lift the bow would be an ideal match for his daughter. However in the course of life, the artist feels Sita, lost her individuality to become a moot follower to her husband’s wishes. According to the artist, she displayed her fiery personality only when she chose to end her life, as a fitting response to her husband’s asking her for the proof of her chastity.

The artist wants to also give Sita her due by remembering this tale of a woman’s sacrifice and her extreme decision when she feels she has been wronged.

Featured in the exhibit is another work titled Goddess, where the artist pays obeisance to Goddesses from all cultures. She says, “The concept of Goddess as a strong figure overseeing the good and the bad in the society is central to many faiths. From the ancient Harappan and Greek civilizations to present day Hindu tradition of paying respects to Goddess Laksmi on Diwali who is said to bring wealth and prosperity, the Goddesses play a pivotal role in many cultures.”

Ms Tibrewala’s exhibit also draws attention to many different traditions that Diwali is also associated with. In the Indian state of Kerela, Diwali is observed a day before the rest of the country and is marked by celebrating the victory of Lord Krishna over evil king Narkasura. In another South Indian state of Karnataka, Diwali is marked by the celebrations for Lord Vishnu’s triumph of Bali and eventual saving of universe.
The artist believes that all practices and customs associated with the festival of lights should be recognized. In a beautiful way, Diwali and its many customs demonstrate that celebrations can be cohesive despite their diverse nature – a message so important in these times.

About the artist:
Sujata Tibrewala, a self-taught artist come engineer remarkably embodies the indomitable spirit of human existence through her works. Her works revolve around the theme of eco-feminism. She has exhibited her artworks in some of the most reputed venues around the globe such as University of Illinois, Chicago, Raw San Jose, Parallax Art Fair London, the Regional Commission of Arts St Louis, Life Force Arts Chicago, Mindworks Gallery Chesterfield, St. Louis Artists' Guild, Chesterfield Arts, Art World Association, Women's Caucus for the Arts, MySLART and Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi. She moved to the USA in 2010 from India and practices her art form at the Bay Area, CA, where she resides presently.

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