Balancing Nostalgia & Progress: Two Manipuri Artists Explore Their Roots

Khongool Thokchom Sony and Laishram Meena

If you’re in Delhi and need plans for this weekend, look no further. Capturing the mystic green beauty of Manipur, artists Thokchom Sony and Laishram Meena are once again taking their exhibition titled ‘Khongool’, on the road. First exhibited in 2019, at Gallery ONKAF in Delhi, the Jamia Millia Islamia alums are looking forward to sharing their art again.

Khongool, or footprints, is a journey of two artists from Manipur to Delhi. The artists’ bring their diasporic heritage from their native lands to metropolitans. The exhibition has been curated by Vivek Pratap Singh in collaboration with the two artists, depicting the culture, festive moods, and the jewellery of their state.

Thokchom Sony, who studied applied art, says that when he moved from Manipur to Delhi, he faced bad experiences with discrimination, and started questioning if he even knew himself. He says that at school in Manipur he never studied the history, biodiversity, or culture of Manipur specifically. The pandemic gave him an opportunity to go back and discover his own ancestors and cultures in a more nuanced and sensitive way. His works are inspired by the future and holistic developments that he wants to see in Manipur — incorporating progress with nature.

“On one side there is a sense of realization, brimming with nostalgia stemming from the memoirs of childhood. On the other end it’s rediscovering the beauty of the native land, the depth, balance, and co-existence of the traditional ways taught.

Khongool is footprints tracing back to look into the beauty of the innocent past and an unwavering wish to see a better strong future with balance. Balance for a sense of development that is not defined by concrete and skyscrapers, but understanding that compassion and existence with nature is the way ahead.”

— - Thokchom Sony and Laishram Meena

Laishram Meena studied painting at the university and her works are a vision of the childhood days she spent in Manipur. With the nostalgic memories of the past, her work goes back to her roots, a time of innocence, and none of the stress of adult life.

Laishram and Thokchom’s second exhibition runs from the 10th to the 13th of September 2022 at the India International Centre (Kamla Devi Complex), Lodhi Estate, New Delhi.

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