The origin of the this museum was the vision of Tokio Hasegawa, who spent many years collecting and preserving Indian Folk Art. Enchanted by the Madhubani paintings of Ganga Devi brought to Japan by a tourist, he visited India in search of Ganga Devi in particular and Madhubani in general. Upon successful research, he converted a schoolhouse in Tokamachi into the Mithila museum. It was inaugurated in 1982 and has been a connecting thread of Indo-Japanese cultural heritage.
Hasegawa found a connection between the cosmic world and Madhubani. It appeared as an offering to the divine. He realized the risky sustenance of the indigenous art forms and the increasing western influence on the cultures of the east. It was in this background that he decided to open a museum specifically for the preservation of Madhubani artworks.
The museum houses over 2,000 original Madhubani artworks. Some of the works were acquired, while others were created by the artists in Japan itself. As many as 300 paintings were created by the master artists inside the museum. The museum houses as many as 36 original works of Late Shri Ganga Devi, a Padma Shri Madhubani artist. It also houses works of other prominent artists such as Sita devi and Godawari Dutta.
“Madhubani reminded me of the fate of Ukiyo-e, a Japanese art that dissipate with modernization and influence of western schools of art coming in. I wanted to protect Madhubani and this motivated me to open the museum… I did not want this spiritual art to disappear like our own Ukiyo-e.”
Traditional Madhubani artist, Ganga Devi was invited to the Mithila museum in 1988 to produce original works for the museum. Hasegawa believes that Ganga Devi should be titled as ‘Picasso of the East’. Since then numerous traditional artists have created original works for the museum on “pseudo walls” using bamboo stencils and natural paints.
The Mithila museum in Japan evolved the Madhubani paintings, taking them to a new phase. The artists started producing new themes such as Lord Rama’s bow and Lord Shiva’s trishula. They also started producing on new bases. The spread of upper-caste Madhubani artists to Japan gave an impetus to the lower classes who started experimenting with new themes and colours as well. Today, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the Madhubani paintings made by different classes.
Even though it is named as Mithila museum, it also houses some Warli paintings, Gond paintings, and terracotta figurines. Along with the Madhubani artists, they were also invited to the Mithila museum for the creation of their original works. One of the most prominent examples of the artist residency programs is the famous Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam.
The Mithila museum focuses on the acquisition of artworks, research, and publicity of the Madhubani paintings. It plays an important role in the bilateral cultural ties between India and Japan allowing both countries to enable art exchange programs. What started as a personal endeavor to protect the Madhubani paintings went on to become one of the best-preserved collections of not only Madhubani but also other indigenous art forms from India.
Gupta, Arunima. 2022. "From Mithila Museum To Music, Hasegawa Tokio's Tryst With India - Center For Soft Power". Center For Soft Power. https://www.indicasoftpower.com/from-mithila-museum-to-music-hasegawa-tokios-tryst-with-india/.
"Karpuri Devi, The Eminent Mithila Painting Artist And Creator Of Mithila Museum In Japan Passes Away". 2022. Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/karpuri-devi-the-eminent-mithila-painting-artist-and-creator-of-mithila-museum-in-japan-passes-away/story-agHo6NMDvZa9X1dip0e1aO.html.
"Mithila Museum Library". 2022. Mithila-Museum.Com. http://www.mithila-museum.com/aboutMM/Emithilap.html.
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