Manipur, with its rich cultural heritage, faces the threat of losing invaluable art forms to neglect. Dr Yumnam Sapha, an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Manipur University, has embarked on a mission to save ancient painting styles, particularly the Subika paintings found in archaic Manipuri manuscripts called Puyas.
Subika Paintings: A Cultural Legacy
The Subika painting style is intricately linked to the cultural history of the Meitei community. Six surviving manuscripts – Subika, Subika Achouba, Subika Laishaba, Subika Choudit, Subika Cheithil, and Thengrakhel Subika – showcase the significance of this art form. Unfortunately, awareness about Subika paintings has dwindled, bringing it to the verge of extinction.
Subika Laishaba: A Visual Continuation
Among the manuscripts, Subika Laishaba is a direct and authentic continuation of the Meitei cultural tradition portrayed through visual images. The absence of a specific founder mentioned in the royal chronicle, Cheitharol Kumbaba, suggests the possible existence of this art form during the introduction of the writing tradition in the state.
Historical Roots of Subika Paintings
Despite Manipur’s prominence in Raas leela and Nat Sangkritan, it lags behind in visual arts. The historical roots embedded in Subika paintings reveal its once prominent position, with experts dating its use back to the 18th or 19th century.
Dr Sapha’s Journey
Dr Yumnam Sapha, motivated by childhood exposure to various art forms, pursued a career in painting. His encounter with cultural activist Mutua Bahadur in 2006 introduced him to Subika paintings. Although initially focused on Western-style paintings during his master’s degree, he later envisioned merging Subika paintings with Western styles to create a unique art form, realizing the importance of preserving traditional painting styles.
Research and Collaborations
Dr Sapha pursued a PhD at Hyderabad University, dedicating his research to the art and craft of the Meitei community. Collaboration with historian Wangam Somorjit provided deeper insights into Subika painting, leading to the creation of 15 artworks. Collaborating with art curator L Somi Roy, he published a children’s storybook and a folktale book featuring Subika-style paintings.
Advocating for Manipuri Art
In every corner of Manipur, distinct art styles exist. Dr Sapha encourages younger generations to delve into research, aiming to create a significant platform for Manipuri art nationally and internationally. Through his efforts, the ancient Subika painting style may find a revival, securing its place in the contemporary artistic landscape.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
- What is the mission of Dr Yumnam Sapha?
- A. Promoting Western-style paintings
- B. Preserving ancient painting styles, especially Subika paintings
- C. Advocating for Raas leela and Nat Sangkritan
- D. Establishing a career in singing and theatre
- Which manuscript represents a direct and authentic continuation of the Meitei cultural tradition through visual images?
- A. Subika Achouba
- B. Subika Laishaba
- C. Subika Choudit
- D. Thengrakhel Subika
- When did Dr Sapha first encounter Subika paintings?
- A. During his PhD at Hyderabad University
- B. In 2006, through cultural activist Mutua Bahadur
- C. During his master’s degree at Kairagarh University
- D. During childhood exposure to art forms
- What is the historical significance of Subika paintings in Manipur?
- A. Originating in the 21st century
- B. Linked to the introduction of the writing tradition in the state
- C. Prominence lost in the 20th century
- D. Primarily associated with Raas leela
- Which publication features Subika-style paintings by Dr Sapha?
- A. ‘The Western Influence on Manipuri Art’
- B. ‘And That Is Why’
- C. ‘Manipuri Folktales Unveiled’
- D. ‘Cultural Chronicles of Manipur’