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Art in Provincial Culture

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Booker Prize winning novelist Arvin Adiga wrote "Ignoring the cultural significance of
our smaller towns will reduce the nation's diversity." I would like to elaborate on this
statement. It is not the historical importance of these provincial towns alone which
make them invaluable but their contribution to the nurturing of art and culture of the
society. Very often artists, especially writers, lack an identity in a city
where they are an outsider and write in a vacuum. Such writings do not have much
depth, as a piece of good writing is not created in a vacuum. Most cities
have a metropolitan culture where many people from different parts of the world reside and
adapt a new way of life, sometimes forgetting their own indigenous culture. They live
in their own cocoons in a city and are alienated from the society; whereas in
provincial towns, there is a feeling of brotherhood among the people and a sense of
belonging. This feeling of unity helps to nurture the local culture and tradition -- in
USA, it exists among the Amish community. In India we have many
tribes in different states and mostly they live in the villages and in smaller
towns. Such tribes believe in the age-old native intelligence of protecting their
environment by worshipping the nature -- the mountains, the ecosystem, the rivers.
In spite of the 21st century scientific progress, the tribes retain their culture. It is
interesting to see them talking on the cell phones but maintaining their cultural roots.
This diversity is the premise of good literature, music, folk dance, folk art.


Most of literature has references of childhood memories of the writers or the
provincial towns they grew up in. V.S. Naipaul's work has reference to Trinidad.
Tolstoy's Anna is a girl from the province and Levin's character dreamt of managing
his own estate and hospital in the countryside. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's most
famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is again set in a small town and its
atmosphere creates magic realism.


In the 19th and 20th century most of the great authors have written about their own
experiences of their provincial culture or about the horrors of the war. Annihilation of
war or repression of a regime sometimes triggers oneʼs creativity but the alienation of a city does not. In developing countries, most migrants from the countryside feel
a sense of alienation in the big cities. And so their literature has
beautiful words but the characters are hollow and forgettable.


Now that the world has become smaller with easy transport and instant
communication, every city in the world looks the same. For this reason the
government should retain the unique culture of its smaller towns and patronize its
art and culture and help to create great artistes like Tolstoy, Marquez, Salvador Dali
and Federico Garcia Lorca. Buñuel was born in Calanda, a small town in the
province of Teruel. He would later describe his birthplace by saying that in Calanda,
"the Middle Ages lasted until World War I." And perhaps that was a blessing in
disguise.

Bijaya Jena

www.bijayajena.com