After joining the High School and when he was learning drawing in art classes, Raghav Kaneria thought his mother does not know anything about art. She was making drawings for her embroidery work. When he joined Baroda Fine Arts Faculty and later studied Masters Program in Royal College of London, he realized art comes from life and how the Folk arts are part of day to day life. A conversation with him-
Where do you hale from?
My native place is Anida village in Saurashtra of Gujarat state.
Your childhood, and education…
I was born in 1936. Ruler of our state H.H.Bhagavat Singh went to London and was educated there. He understood the importance of education and constructed school buildings in 175 villages of his state Gondal. He made a policy of compulsory education for children. Boys should be educated upto 4th standard and 2nd standard for girls was the compulsion. If someone wants to study further school offered education upto 7th Standard. He made many reforms for his state. He installed entrance gates for the villages. Earlier no one knew their date of birth. He made a village office, after the birth of every child one had to register in that office register. Once the child is 7 years old, child should be sent to the school.
How did the children enjoy going to school?
Children felt they were put in a prison. They were enjoying roaming around and playing in the fields. Who would like sit in the school? I too did not like that routine. It was difficult to bunk the school also. Other children were sent to their houses to deposit those absentees in the school. Language spoken at the house is different from the language written in the books. It was difficult to follow. Teacher used to give us some work and he would doze off for sleep. If we play around and make noise he used to shout at us for disturbing his sleep. Nothing greatly we learnt in our village school. I completed till 7th class.
Who were influential for your education further?
We were 5 brothers and 1 sister. My father was a farmer, had an agricultural land. He decided to give education to 2 of his boys otherwise it would be difficult for all the children to depend on his small land in future. I am one of those 2 and I was admitted in 8th standard in Gondal high school and was put in to our community hostel there.
How was the education system there?
I did not like the education anywhere. English language as a subject was introduced in 8th standard at that time. My English was week. When I was in my village school I used to make drawings on slate sitting in the school leisure hours. My mother used to make drawings not only for her embroidery work, other women of the village also were getting the drawings done by her, because only few women could drew well and they were drawing for others also. I observed her drawings and used to do them again on my slate. I used to observe animals, birds and fields. I made big size drawings of elephants on our village walls with charcoal. After joining high school at Gondal, I stopped my drawing activity thinking our teachers may scold me for the same. But my hostel warden realized my interest in drawing, sent me to drawing classes and made me to appear for art and drawing examinations also. I got prize money of Rs.10/- in my intermediate drawing examination. I bought a colour box and brush and used to draw with those colors.
My warden encouraged me to join J.J.School of Art Bombay. That was a known art school in those days. But we could not afford to go to Bombay. I joined Baroda because this place is near to our placed. After joining Baroda Fine Arts Faculty in 1955 my life and art changed.
I think you must have adjusted well in Baroda that being an art college.
As I was week in English I had to opt for Diploma course but not for the degree. I did not understand the curriculum and study hours to begin with. But I made friendship with my super senior Jyoti Bhatt, that gave me direction, who is a well known artist now. He is from our region.
I got a first class in first year. But when I went home in vacation, my father told me to stop the education in search of a job, thinking I studied too long and we cannot afford further. I felt floor under my feet started quaking. I already started enjoying my art education. It was more than difficult for me to discontinue my education at that stage. I could come back to college with the help of my friends. I received scholarships and practiced art further, studied Masters Program in Royal College of Art London.
There is lot of variation in your art, there is a variation in the materials also you use.
I do whatever I like and I enjoy doing that. I did lot of metal casting and various forms when I had good studio facility in London. Sometimes one has to adjust with the studios availability and facility. I make drawings also yet another time.
I think you express one single thought in various forms.
Yes. I experiment my thoughts in various forms and materials. I observed in my childhood, inert seeds are sowed in the soil and water it, life throngs out form that lifeless seed. I amazed observing its growth and worked on this germination and saplings in various forms and its different stages. I molded the galloping energies of Cow and calf in various postures. When I received the scholarships like National scholarship I had the opportunity to explore further. When I was teaching in Sculpture Dept. Baroda Fine Arts faculty, I followed different materials and methods to demonstrate students. I followed my own methods of carving and sculpting. I was retired form Faculty in 1996. Since then I started making drawings most. My childhood drawings, what my mother made for ‘Ganesh Sthapana’ rituals had inspired me. We have many arts in our society, they are part of our lives. They have emerged from our living systems. British had come to rule us and washed out our understanding about art and said ours is not art. I hope one day, we will once again reach the stage to understand and practice ‘art as part of our life.’
Raghav Kaneria is interviewed by Dr.M.Balamani
[Original article of this interview is published in ‘Sopathi’ Sunday magazine Navatelangana news papers on 28th April 2019]