‘Welcome to the amazing world of NABI!’, greets Nabarun Sinha’s website the moment you enter it.
Nabarun Sinha or ‘Nabi’, who has been written about as ‘the most humble personification of a knowledge bank one can ever come across’, is one of the world’s finest.
The multi-disciplinary artist, who has a background in design, architecture, embroidery, finance, and (if you’re still with me), graphics, is known for his exceptional work in modern Indian design.
Here’s a rather long short conversation that we had managed to have with Nabi about his unique world, his work, and his world-view.
The Story Of Nabi
“I changed my name when I went to summer school in Parson [Parson School Of Design, New York] because no one was able to pronounce my name and I used to get annoyed. One night, after coming back from my classes, I saw a Korean drama and saw a word called ‘nabi’ which means butterfly. My Dad’s name is ‘Naba’... I put two and two together and cooked up a silly name and decided to go with ‘Nabi’ from then on. It just happened and is quite a story!
Over the few years, I have realised that it has become an alter ego of me, where Nabi is a certain image that needs to be portrayed as the personality I am with its own quirks and likes and dislikes, attitude and style. Nabarun, on the other hand, is a more stay-inside and watch anime and eat Asian food kind of person. It has just been a process of jumping in between the two personas over the years and building this world of Nabi.”
Nabi is as unique as his name and his work. Therefore, in simple words, we asked Nabi to define ‘Nabi’.
He said, “I feel my definition is quite different. I think different worlds can reside with worlds. All my likes and dislikes can become a metaphysical world. That represents who I am and is heavily influenced by magic.”
A chiaroscuro of all things magical, Nabi says that magic isn’t what we see on TV and movies. Instead, everything we do is ‘magic’ and it’s all really about one’s perception/
Laments Nabi, “As the world is advancing become more futuristic with more robots being introduced and the idea of magic is dying.”
There is a little bit of hope, however.
“ I feel love is the last form of magic alive in this world as all the old form of gods and fairies have died. Love, too, is dying and I would love to preserve it in any form and present it to the world. My world, therefore, looks like an alternate dimension. I’m an escapist and find reality boring and basic. The idea, therefore, is to create a world where everything has a story or history of character to it.”
Filled with the determination to keep this magic alive, Nabi has created a world which is inspirational and inspiring, lovely and beloved, and all things dreamy.
What Does Nabi’s World Look Like?
Nabi’s world, in his own words, is “inspired by anime, futurism, Indian mythological stories, [my] mixed tribal background, folklore, and magic, escapism, colours, the idea of creating a small cuckoo to survive the journey of life – that’s what my world looks like.”
Crusador of love, Nabi defines the ‘shine’ aspect of his art upon being asked about his medium of preference. In a way, whilst describing this, he ends up describing his own line of thought.
“Well, I don’t think I’m limited by the medium of expression but I do like the idea of ‘shine’. Now, most people see beautiful things as objects of vanity to buy, but nobody looks at them as, ‘Oh! Wow! Shiny things!’ For me, shiny things are a way of life and kind of magnify the intent and persona of the person associated with it. I’m a very visual person, so, when I see something, I can visualise an entire universe around it. I love daydreaming, so, I imagine all sorts of things like imagining people fight over my phone or dance! It’s all a bit weird and cuckoo but, yeah, that’s me!”
India has long been known for embroidery as a craft. Nabi is amongst the very few who are consistently modernising the perception of this ancient art and broadening its reach.
Says Nabi about his creative process, “My process starts from colours. I don’t think of them as just colours – each colour has character and is alive.”
Once the character of the colours is set, Nabi brings in the story he wishes to tell.
Inspired by his personal journey, he lays down “...whether a character is sane and sorted, enjoying their life or going through a journey of adventure. I try to express my own pitstops in a very whimsical way and those characters define some important milestones in my life.”
Once the rather deliberate (and never rough or quick) sketches are done, says Nabi, “the next step is to use all the embroidery techniques I know in textile art. I start the sampling process and then I do loads and loads of embroidery sampling and swatching and mix and match of all techniques I know.”
On Being A Multi-Disciplinarian
Someone who never seems to stop, one of Nabi’s most admired strands of work is his 3-D art, and more specifically, one against gender revelations that he worked on in collaboration with gender rights activist, Alok Vaid Menon.
As a multi-disciplinarian whose clientele is mostly based abroad, Nabi feels that “there are stories and sides of India that are hybrid and beyond the Indian bindi and mehndi. I have created this world to portray this amalgamation. It’s different and unique and how I see the influence of India in it.”
“I Grew Up In The Jungle”
Pondering over his own upbringing and background, Nabi also feels that the creative Industry of India is hierarchical and some are born with much more advantage than others.
“If someone told me I’d be doing what I am right now back then and the tools I’d be using, I would laugh because I grew up in the jungle away from the city with television as the only form of entertainment. I was so lucky to have anime and coming from that to cities like Bombay and observing the word evolve because of things like connections and general social relationships was disheartening as you see the bigger picture clearly. That realisation keeps you through entitlement. The more magic I create, the more my energy goes up – just like a game character!”
On a parting note, Nabi says, “I think artists should just do what they want and should shirk the idea of the whole story of you and focus on the artwork itself. The final output ought to be the main focus of it all. Once we reach that level of why or who are we doing this for by elevating ourselves from constant judgement, then all the boundaries can be broken down.”
Discover Nabi further here.
Step into the world of Nabi through this portal.
Interview transcribed by Riya Sharma.
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