Documenting cultural integration through an artist’s journey

Samiran Bhuyan

Silpi Unmesh or Rise of an Artist is an autobiography of an Assamese traditional drama (Bhaona) artist Arup Saikia. The experiences the writer gained internationally during his travels from the native river Jia Bhoroli to the Euro-Russian river Volga via many countries have been documented in Silpi Unmesh.


It is noteworthy that the birthplace of Saikia is near the river Jia Bhoroli. The cultural journey from the Bhoroli to the Volga is a true depiction of the artist’s assimilation and broader acceptability of fraternity across the globe. The language, community or nationality do not matter here. The friction and agony the artist faces make the formative base of this autobiography. This happens during the preaching of the revolutionary artistic genre.

A genuine artist is one who understands the newly sprouted feelings in people’s minds in addition to the prevailing trends of society. The artist is a real human being, one who cares for people’s outlook. This vision of the writer is conspicuously stated in Silpi Unmesh. Moreover, the writer is easily able to feel the motion of time and take everything as inevitable. Therefore, the obstacle during the novelty of creation is a common phenomenon in society. To fathom or express the cardiac vibration of the new generation, performers have to walk on thorns.

Saikia is a performer of this kind. His journey is not a cakewalk. He clearly grasps the degradation or numbness of society. This is caused by a narrow outlook and the wrong meaning of orthodoxy. The author gains a fiery impulse to write an autobiography. This is for the mixed reactions while adorning Assamese traditional drama ‘Bhaona’ in a new linguistic attire (English).

In the beginning of acting in rural areas, Saikia tried to bring modernity and change of style ignoring the usual accepted trend of traditional drama (bhaona). Bhaona is an art though it was created religiously. Change is inevitable. Transformation begets beauty and elegance, which eventually sustain legacy. Saikia’s contribution to the cultural transition of Bhaona traversed everywhere. The author here presents a connecting link among all the major countries or races of the world.

The book is worth the reader’s time. There is a frequent undertone of drama-poetic monologue. The musical garland of words differentiates the autobiography from the usual ones. The series of pamphlets in Silpi Unmesh that readers go through raises a sense of intellectual independence in the name of culture among them. The visiting places are described in a lovely outline. The writing style stimulates intellect with brilliance. Rather than simply performing a show, the author-artist focuses on a comparative study of culture from the indigenous river Bhoroli to the Volga.

The narrative of the book is a kind of self-investigation. Saikia asked and replied to himself the fruit of the mission. What is the necessity of swimming in the opposite direction? Saikia says, “Art is a tree in a porous cage where air can flow uninterruptedly without shaking the roots.”

Once in a chapter, social worker Hemalata Saikia said to the author, “Conflict always increases the circumference. You cross its local boundaries and embrace more avenues.”

Saikia finally says that cultural integration is an unending process. It will continue until a civilised race or country exists. The more we exchange, the more we attain wider acceptability. Protest is another name of recognition. The readers will experience motivated artistic zeal while reading this book.

(The author is a writer, cultural activist and motivational speaker)

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