Of all the types of video production that exist, there is nothing else quite like documentary. Not to say there are not other types of production that have similarities or stylistic choices that resemble documentaries, but the act of making documentaries is just different. I (Drew) often learn about something new or gain insight into seeing something through a new perspective, and this time was no different. This year for the South Carolina Arts Awards, we were asked to create short documentary segments to premiere with the virtual broadcast of the ceremony. Our second assignment took us to Lexington, South Carolina to interview folk artist Jugnu Verma. And what an opportunity to learn it turned out to be!
Jugnu, originally from Bihar, India, has brought the folk art traditions of her birthplace with her to South Carolina. “Some of my friends say I’m just like a cultural ambassador but I don’t feel like that,” she says laughing to herself with a big grin. Verma is a kind and dedicated mother and wife with an extremely gracious attitude. Her daughter was a source of inspiration for her to continue these art practices after moving to South Carolina, hoping to teach her these traditions that she may not have the opportunity to learn. This quickly grew as she found an overwhelming interest in what she was doing by the community at large. She soon was teaching workshops on traditional art practices such as Madhubani painting and Lippan art, creating beautiful large Rangoli for cultural institutions like the Columbia Museum of Art and the Hindu Temple of South Carolina, and coming on to advise for exhibitions highlighting Indian culture. “It is very important for South Carolina to know about India as the state has a significant population of Indian Americans,” she states. Despite all of her efforts to increase visibility of Indian culture within South Carolina, she remains humble, “I never felt that I was going to get an award for that, so it’s really overwhelming for me.”
During our interview I learned so much about the role of art in India and the meaning and significance of certain symbols and practices. “Mothers of India are showing children to think for others. We make Rangoli with lentils and beans which is feeding birds, and ants, and others also,” Verma explains. All of these practices seem to serve more than one purpose, these traditions aren’t just aesthetic touchpoints they are part of everyday life in India. Jugnu isn’t just sharing this with her new home, she’s embedding it into the culture of the state and making it a part of home. I’m not just filming an interview, I’m learning about a whole new lifestyle I’ve never had the opportunity to experience and growing as a result. There is duality with everything it seems.
The South Carolina Arts Awards will stream live on Monday, May 24 at 6 p.m. on the SC Arts Commission website: https://www.southcarolinaarts.com/