Manifesting Migrations

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“My subject is India,” De says, looking around at the exhibit, “my message is the universe.”


The first thing artist Minakshi De wants you to know is she’s a storyteller, that in place of words she uses paint, pastels and mixed media to give voice to the events that have shaped her life. As a result, intriguing images, intricate patterns and vibrant colors tell tales of migration, a subject she knows all too well.

She also knows the physical and emotional costs involved with having to leave cherished friends and familiar places behind. Starting over in a new land takes courage. “My whole life seems like a collage of migrations. It changed my parents’ lives and mine. People don’t want to leave their homes, but sometimes, when they’re pressured by circumstances beyond their control, they are forced to. I have had three migrations in my life, and as I moved from one land to another, crossing boundaries, I seasoned myself to the flavors of a new world,” De says in a voice laced with the cadence of her native country.

De was born and raised in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); her family’s need to leave their homeland and seek safety in India when she was young prompted her to reach for her brushes and paints as a way of expressing the changes and emotions she was going through. In the years to come there would be more moves, bringing with them new awareness and insights she has felt compelled to capture on canvas.

“To me, painting is like writing a story. The way I feel, think and, most importantly, paint have been shaped by the roads I have traveled. I feel my history of migrations has shaped me into the person I am today,” De explains, pondering the past. “The rush of nostalgia often seems to me like a driving force. As I look back through the looking glass of time, I see my little world, my quaint study table adorned with my personal collection of colors and stationeries. There are times I wonder how and why I fell so much in love with color,” she muses, then smiles as the answer comes to her. “I remember how every year during festival time folk artists would come to our home and I would watch their quick, firm strokes, how they would draw lines, curves and add so many colors. A painter was born in me. Although no one in my family was an artist, all I ever wanted was to become one.”

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