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Kudla Goes International – Interview with Artist Dinesh Holla

DINESH HOLLA IN MANGALORE, INDIA, SEPTEMBER 2016. BY VISHWAS KRISHNA.

Dinesh Holla, the Kudla (Mangalore] artist  and a kite designer from Mangalore is representing India on the world famous Dieppe Kite Festival in France. Shri Dinesh Holla shared his thoughts on this proud achievement of himself and his team [Team Mangalore] with us, the, #teamBeautywallspot.  He is our brand ambassador in France during the Dieppe International Kite Festival.


VISHWAS: Namaste Sir 🙂
DINESH HOLLA: Namaste 🙂

VISHWAS: We have come to know that you are going to France to fly Karavali kites for the 36th International kite festival. We will be happy to know about the festival, your participation and our country's presence.  How did it all begin?
DINESH HOLLA: Dieppe International Kite Festival is actually the 18th festival. In alternate years same is conducted in Canada.  Both put together it is 36th.  I am not participating as an individual.  It is Team Mangalore that is participating.  I am a member of the team, that's all.
In 1996 B. Sarvesh Rao pioneered team Mangalore and its participation in International Kite Festival.  I met Sarvesh Rao during trekking on the Western Ghats.  I joined the team as a kite designer. In 2004 we created a 36 feet kite.  The theme was Kathakali.  It was recognised as the biggest kite in India and got entry in to Limca Book of World Records.  With this Team Mangalore got a good turn.  We were invited to participate in Gujarat International Kite Festival. There we could meet participants from France, Italy and many other countries.  They were impressed with our workmanship, design, art and colour combinations of the kites.  Many foreign teams liked our kites.  No team had put efforts like ours.  We had spent more than a month to build the kite. Our involvement and workmanship made Mr. Dominic Martin and Mark Hengrose invite us to the International kite festival to be held in France.

VISHWAS: Usually how long will be the festival?
DINESH HOLLA: This year the festival begins on 10th September and ends on 19th.  This is the biggest kite festival in Europe.  Several other countries also conduct such festivals. Italy had conducted 3 days, Korea conducted 6 days festivals.  The duration of the festival depends on the organiser. This year's Dieppe international kite festival will have participants from 48 countries. Visitors from all over the world are expected to visit.

VISHWAS: What difference is there between your kites and other countries kites?
DINESH HOLLA: Our kites are considered as historical kites.  Kites from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, China are considered as historical kites.  Basically kite flying originated in these countries.  Europe and  America accepted it as hobby. They conduct kite festival every year.

Interview with Artist Dinesh Holla | Beautywallspot.com

VISHWAS: Any other country conduct such kite festivals? Have you participated in them?
DINESH HOLLA: Almost every country conduct such festivals.  We don't get invitation from all the festivals. We have participated in the festivals of France, Italy, Canada, Korea, England, Dubai, Qatar, Thailand and Srilanka. We had invitations from some countries like Japan and South America.  We couldn't attend due to financial and some other reasons.  In some cases we couldn't get Air tickets.  Many countries met our full expenses.  In some other cases we had spent on the festival and got reimbursement.  Thus we could not attend all the international festivals.

VISHWAS: We wish to congratulate you for designing the poster for this years International Kite Festival.  How could you get that recognition as an artist?
DINESH HOLLA: Basically my art is line art.  I used to sketch on the spot during my visits to places.  I use our traditional art styles in my art works and try to fill emotions and meanings.  During my first visit and participation in kite festival I exhibited my works and got excellent results.  I had used our Rangoli style in my works.  I had created France's  Eiffel Towers in Rangoli. All the visitors liked it.  This time also you can see Rangoli art on the tails of our kites.   I had created their birds, monuments, ports etc in Rangoli style.   The organisers have seen my art and designs and have gone deep in to my art and derived more meanings to the works than I ever dreamt.  They also loved my way of presentation and hence asked me to design this years poster.

VISHWAS: How do you feel about this years participation?
DINESH HOLLA: This time art is getting more importance than kite.  This is the 3rd time I am exhibiting my line art.  The last two exhibitions were gravings and pebbles.  In gravings bird was created.  Pebbles was because the Dieppe  beach has no sand, only pebbles. This time the exhibition is named as Raga Rekha.  My topics are based mostly on tribal art.  I have created the music, dance, life styles etc.  In my art, lines dance to the tunes of music.  The French have high regard for our art, culture and life styles. Hence I have kept the name as Raga Rekha. I got influenced by my tribal friends from Biligere Rangana Betta.  The French may not understand the meaning of Raga Rekha. My dancing lines to the tunes of tribal music in my art when explained in French, will be loved by them.
Every year the organisers declare a theme for the exhibition.  This years theme is tribal art.  I am familiar with the Indian tribals and their culture, music, art etc. So this years theme is tailor made for me.  So I have created a 36 metre canvas on tribal arts.  From Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from Manipur to Gujarat there are more than 2000 tribal communities.  I have made extensive study about the tribal communities.  Every Indian state has more than 60 tribal communities. All have different customs, faith, styles and patterns.  All these tribals and their art is recreated on the 36 metre canvas.  More to that this is the 36th International Kite Festival.
Another important thing is we are flying DAMPATHY a kite on newly married couple of India.  The groom is dressed in traditional Katche and Petah with Uttareeya and the bride in traditional Sari, blouse with gejje on legs and bangles on hands.  Just flying the kite they will not take note of this.  We will exhibit the Dampathi and give explanation in French, which will be appreciated by them.  We will also place the Petah, panche, Saree, gejje, bangles etc on display with French explanation of the items and their usage.  During our last visits we had presented our traditional costumes to the Mayor Sebastian Jumel and the Chief Organiser  Sandrine Freborg who loved the presents
I had always presented my artworks with explanation in French which attracts the French.  I have mixed Indian and French cultures in my works.

VISHWAS: How do you make your kites?
DINESH HOLLA: For our Team Mangalore kites, I first create line art.  For all the kites like Kathakali, Yakshagana, Bharathanatya, Gajaraja etc I had made the line art.  Then I go for colour combinations. We have clothes of 8 colours.  Then  I go for computer designs. Hence my line art is important.
During my visits to France I used to make on the spot line sketches. There they suggested me to create kites with my line art. Hence Dampathy is made out of line art.  Last time I made moonlight with line art.  Line art and Team Mangalore kites are complementary.

VISHWAS: Your art, kite and fight - How do you manage your time between these three?
DINESH HOLLA: It is not managing my time. I am devoting my time for the nature. I breath for the nature. For the past several years I have been visiting the Western Ghats on trekking expeditions with my friends.  We have close association with the tribals of Western Ghats. We are working silently for their welfare.  We have not gone for publicity.  We have met many mafias like timber, ganja, estate, wild life hunting etc  during our work with the tribals.  We have not made big noise about this, else we will be stopped by the forest department with one or other reason.  Recently during our trekking in Devara mane forest, we got information of hunting in the forest. We went to the spot and could find only blood.  We went to the nearby village, Horatty and made enquiry.  The villagers said, it is quite regular in this part.  People from other area come for hunting bisons (wild buffalo).  Each animal weighs more than 1000 kilograms and each kg fetches Rs 300.00.  These hunters have support from big people. There is a board   "Protection of forest is our Responsibility. Save forest".  in the vicinity of the spot.  We took photos of the board and the spot and forwarded to the forest minister..  There are king pins in the border towns of the Western Ghats who are threats to the forests, tribals and ultimately to the nature who are nurtured by the political powers.
To me art and poetry is always there with me. I don't have to find time for that.  Where ever I go I either draw lines or write some verses.  For poetry sketches are necessary. So both go together. For kites I am making myself available.

VISHWAS: How could you achieve so much on the International arena?
DINESH HOLLA: Frankly speaking I initially had inferiority complex about my line art.  While every artist was using colours and brushes I was just drawing lines.  I searched for my identity. I have come from nothing.  I had no formal art education, and had no financial strength.  Yet I kept on trying.  I drew according to the taste of the people.  During my visit to France, Australia, Canada, Korea etc. I tried to understand their taste.  I drew according to my imagination. Gave no scope for confusion and tried to give some message in my work.My communication skills are very poor.  I know little English and I absolutely don't understand French. But my art has communicated for me and won many friends for me. All the participants from the 48 countries are my friends now..  We communicate regularly.  More than that, this year s Dieppe festival poster is designed by me.  My art exhibition is popular on the venue. This time I am carrying 100 artworks. Out of this 32 works are for Raga Rekha exhibition with frames.  Some artworks are with mounts. I gift some of my artworks to my friends there.  Many others will buy.
Another feature of this time is the 36 m long canvas on tribal art. The tribal art, culture, music, dance etc are treasures which cannot be priced.  Their worth cannot be estimated. I have been studying the tribals of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Jharkhand etc regularly. There is diversity in tribal culture. Even today you can see them dancing with costumes made out of leaves, tiger skin, and different types of quills. Artists like Casadio from Italy,  Linda's Sanders from Australia, Robert from Canada, etc are waiting for my 36 m canvas.  I am proud of  this.  I have planned to auction this canvas at the festival.  I have offered the organiser 50% of the bid amount and the remaining 50% will go for the tribal welfare, like education for tribal children, their health, marriage, and livelihood through Sahyadri Sanchaya.
Another aspect of my friendship with the artist community, I want you  to note.  Recently I published a photograph of one of my art buyer with me on the internet.  Immediately I got messages from several of my friends from Belgium and England.  They asked me why their photos with me are not published.  I am overwhelmed with this regards from them.  They consider my company as something valuable.  I could get recognition in France.  What my 25 years of efforts in Mangalore could not get me, my 10 days stay in France has given me.  In France I never visited any gallery nor my art is exhibited on any gallery.  Visitors of kite festival has taken my art to unexpected places.  A German friend Mr. Axel Costs purchased my works and is exhibiting it in a German gallery.  Otto Watson from Netherlands has hanged my work in a club.  Sebastian Jumel Mayor has kept my artwork on the wall of the official residence of the mayor.  Linda's Sanders from Australia has kept my work in front of his factory.  This is my 6th exhibition in the kite festival.  After the first exhibition some New York art lover contacted me through a Canadian friend.  This is because the art lovers have taken my art to different corners of the world.
Another incident notable happened in Korea.  I created a work on Panchbhoota.  When we landed in Korea the facilities given to us were very uncomfortable. On the first day I presented the panchbhoota work to the organiser Mr. Kits Edi.  On looking at the work he immediately provided us very luxurious facility for our stay in Korea till we departed after 13 days.  I know the art has worked the wonders.  Even with the technological advancements the Koreans still believe in spirits and ghosts.
I regret having thrown away many of my works which according to me wanted improvement.  All these could have won more hearts for us.

VISHWAS: You have made your presence felt in the fight for the nature and tribal welfare. What measures do you expect from the rulers and society to achieve your goal?
DINESH HOLLA: My fight for the nature and Western Ghats is not done alone.  It is a team work.  I might have appeared as a front man.  There is a big force, a big team working for this.  In my fight for the nature I could never get support from the authorities.  They have opposed.  Saving the Western Ghats is not just the need of our people alone.  The whole world want to save it.   There are 18 diverse species in the Western Ghats.  The world wants to save them..  But our government ignores it.   We are doing the work supposed to have done by the government and forest department.  Many forest officials have observed our activities and appreciated.  The state government do not recognize our work because we are opposed to Yettina Hole and Nethravathi.  The government knows our work is good, but they have their own reasons to oppose us.   We have faced many oppositions and threats.   Several mafias have warned us against our visits to western ghats.  We are not going there for timber or hunting or for encroachment.  We have undertaken projects like cleaning the forests (trekkers have left behind bottles, plastics and waste materials deep inside the forest.  We are silently cleaning the forests from these wastes regularly.) Tribal welfare (helping the tribal children in their education, marriage, employment and livelihood).  We are struggling to save the nature.  We have now understood that our movement should be taken to different levels.  Our morchas on the streets alone will not bring result.  Hence we have taken up the legal battle.  We are confidant about our success..

VISHWAS: Do you have any plans to take your fight for the western ghats to International level?
DINESH HOLLA: We have been fighting for Western Ghats and Nethravathy for the past few years.  Our own people have not understood the need for the protection. After all these years of fight , we have taken up legal fights. We know if we continue to organise people s movements we will be restrained through fixing us in one or the other issues.
Speaking about taking up the issue to international community we have certain plans.  As mentioned earlier, I was entrusted with the designing work of this year s Dieppe kite festival about 6 months back itself.  That was the time we were deeply involved in our struggle against Yettina Hole and Nethravathy projects.  I couldn't attend to the work for posters.  The organiser Sandrine Freborg and Sebastian Jumel the Mayor were trying to contact me, but I was not reachable.  They observed the posts in Facebook and internet, all in Kannada.  From the photos and little English comments they understood that I am involved in some important activity. When they could contact me they asked about the issues and when I explained they told me to give priority to the issue and the poster can wait.  They are concerned about issues on nature and suggested me to move papers with UNESCO. Both of them know very little about our Western Ghats or Nethravathy river.
UNESCO has declared Pushpagiri and Kollur Mookambika as World Heritage spots.  Pushpagiri is just 16 km away from the Yettina Hole project site.  During that period we had requested the government to declare the 123 km area from Pushpagiri to Kudremukh as Nethravathy protected area so that no projects harmful for the nature come up in this area.  Now the Kudremukh National park is protected. Once you enter Mala in Karkala you have to exit in the specified time.  No mischief is possible. Similar protection is required to Nethravathy area.   Or else we will be burdened with projects. Yettina Hole, when it fails Gundia, then some hydal project.  To prevail sense on the government we are planning to bring the situation to the notice of UNESCO through a request.  We are not going to complain.  We have prepared a 5 page report and a video with English captions and translation. We will present this to all the participants and take their signature in support to our request and forward to the UNESCO.  We expect much better results in our this campaign than our last 5 years struggle against Yettina Hole.  Till date we were not planning to  use the international communities concern on nature.  We expect the UNESCO to restrain our Governments from damaging the region.
If such destructive activities are not stopped our future generation will suffer and will blame us for not saving the nature for them.  Our Western   Ghats will turn in to deserts.  Now itself you can observe lesser rains have fallen on Nethravathy area. Excess rains have fallen on other areas.  Some where something is going wrong. We are inviting dangers through damage to the Western Ghats. Recently during a meeting with students I have suggested to consider Nethravathy as our mother.  Every mother bears all the pains and onslaughts from her children.  Similarly mother Nethravathy also bears all the attacks on her body and her banks.  My request to all my friends is to be concerned about our rivers and forests without which our life will be  at perils.

VISHWAS: Sir, We are very proud of you and your kites. So fly high the kites of India on the Skies of France and make us all proud. Happy Journey 🙂
DINESH HOLLA: Thank you 🙂

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