Explore The Many Faces Of Manipur’s Beauty Through Thokchom Sony’s Incredible Art

'Strong & Beautiful' (L) and 'The infinity' (R) 'by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Strong & Beautiful' (L) and 'The infinity' (R) 'by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist'Strong & Beautiful' (L) and 'The infinity' (R) 'by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist.

“There will always be a touch of some north-east Indian element in the arts that I create. It’s a part of my identity, my heart, my roots,” says 29-year-old Thokchom Sony. He may be based in the national capital for the last 10 years now, but his ancestral roots seep through his creations, from the smallest of lines to the largest of features. “It can be some patterns in the fabrics, plants or facial features in portraits. It just comes automatically as it’s there deep in my heart,” he tells Homegrown.

With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Jamia Millia Islamia, he went on to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in visual effects and animation from the Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre where he is also currently teaching art and pre-productions as a contractual professor.

There is a feeling of tranquillity, joviality that prevails in a lot of his artistic creation along. He makes you appreciate the subtle beauty of nature and all its majesty.

Each of his pieces is wonderful, but it just happens that his pick of a favourite from his body of work ended up being one that we admired the most as well. Titled ‘I’m still beautiful and strong’, Sony’s beautiful watercolour on paper depicts an alluring woman, in beautiful colours and surrounded by flowers who happens to be a breast cancer survivor. “This piece will always remain in my heart wherever it goes. I put in all my heart while I painted this woman. She has won the battle against breast cancer; she is bold, beautiful and emotionally strong. The dandelions she’s holding are releasing the flying seeds, spreading the message and awareness that people don’t need to hide out of fear – to break the taboos and judgmental views of the world we live in,” he says.

“I believe that art in any form is a channel to release our inner feelings and energies in a positive way that may help or inspire others. A lot of my ideas come from my experiences in life.”

India’s ‘Seven Sisters’ are known for their scenic beauty, rich culture and traditions, but rarely do we delve into the burgeoning contemporary art and music community that has been thriving here. Overflowing with untapped potential in the visual arts sphere and somehow their talents remain sorely under-documented. Regardless, creative pioneers from the region have continued to forge their own artistic style and voice that is infused with vivid imagery, traditional art and modern aesthetics, speaking through a variety of mediums.

“Politics and cultural hegemony have always been there, whether it’s the Indian film industry, sports or the Indian art society. People ask for the same thing, like to create copies and often fear to explore new things, but it’s changing slowly,” says Sony. “I see beauty everywhere and our country has such rich and diverse cultures; there’s so much to see and appreciate us. I do experience discrimination sometimes in the capital but it helps me generate my ideas and concepts to express what I feel and what I believe through my art. It makes me stronger from the inside.”

Sony also spoke with Homegrown about his ongoing exhibition in New Delhi titled Khongool, which translates to ‘footprints’ in Meitei. “The show is about our journey. Me and my friend Meena Laishram. We have a common background. We are friends from college days. Her work is about memories of childhood, innocence and curiosity. My works are about being the experience that I have in the city away from home as a person from northeast India. I’m always curious about other cultures and nature. I stand for equal rights and humanity. I want people to see beauty in the diversity and also live a life in awareness of everything that makes life so beautiful and complete,” he explained.

When asked about his favourite piece of artwork from his collection, Sony said “Among the artwork display my favourite one is the most recent one called “Tea break”. I can see myself getting an upgrade with time. This work has a lot of stories in the background and I have designed the composition in a visual narrative way. First of all, I always appreciate when I see people who stand out and express themselves truly for who they are on the inside.” He goes on to talk about how this particular piece is aimed at breaking stereotypical notions of beauty and at the same time reflects the diversity of India. “Toro means curly hair in Manipuri language. Mureinabi means dark complexion one. Both the terms are used in a negatively affect someone’s (particularly who is young) self-esteem. We were told (both boys and girls) that dark skin is dirty and ugly, light skin is beautiful. Curly hair is wild/untidy and straight hair is neat. As children, we believed all of it. In the painting, the two ladies are taking a break from their work and chatting over tea, talking about the adventures of childhood, about the excitement, making flower garland and rings. Fashion connects people from all over the world, but your identity makes you unique. Part of the pattern is inspired by Rajasthani embroidery, some pattern from Thadou community, Naga jewellery and some Meitei fabrics. The second woman’s haircut is a modern version of old traditional Manipuri/Naga haircut,” he added.

Date: February 1 to 9, 2019.

Venue: Gallery Onkaf, C1/20 Safdarjung development area, behind Aurobindo market, New Delhi.

You can see more of Thokchom Sony’s incredible work on Facebook and Instagram.

'Tea Break' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Tani n Koko' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Leihao' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Three northeast sisters' by Thokchom Sony in collaboration with N Earth; image courtesy of the artist
'Little indian ballerinas' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Sangai Thoiba' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist
'Moirang Thoibi' by Thokchom Sony; image courtesy of the artist

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