Mudra Foundation Interview – 1

They want to share inspiration and joy through art and motivate others. Mudra Foundation holds dance and art workshops visiting socially disadvantaged communities of Odisha with artists from all over the world. I asked about the activities of this NPO and the story behind its establishment.

Mrs. Masako Ono, a resident of Bhubaneshwar in the state of Odisha, is a dancer who leads MOPA (Masako Ono Performing Arts), while also managing Mudra Foundation, an NPO (non-profit organisation) based on the concept of art for all, with her husband Mr. Manas, who is a photographer and a stage lighting designer.

A residential area not far off from the Bhubaneshwar airport, where you can even hear the whistle of the trains close by. I visited their home, which is a dance studio in addition to being Mudra Foundation’s base of activities, and heard the story from Masako.

The sequence of events behind the establishment of the NPO

In the beginning, as she performed publicly as an Odissi dancer all over the world, the people she met or her friends who were dancers came to visit Odisha, said Masako.

Since Masako started teaching yoga and Odissi dance at Bhubaneshwar, many foreign dancers of different genres (for example, from Japan, Italy, or France in Europe; hip-hop, flamenco, or contemporary dancers and the like) came to stay with her for a month or even more. More than beginners, many were teachers of dance.

“I thought, what if I could spread different genres of dance among the local youth of Odisha with my friends?” said Masako. It was a rare opportunity for the youth of Odisha to come in contact with the various dances popular around the world. Starting with her own students, she expanded her activities to share the wonder of the art of dance to disadvantaged communities.

The poverty ratio for the state population of Odisha (whose capital is Bhubaeshwar) is high among Indians states.(1) Even if the children decided that they wanted to learn dance, they probably wouldn’t have the scope to do so at home.

Masako, an Indian classical dancer and an Odissi dancer, who thought of giving something back to India or Odisha, thus began her workshop activities in collaboration with her friends from different genres all over the world.

Mudra Foundation’s activities and objectives

(from their official page)
“MUDRA FOUNDATION started to SHARE ART to spread the beauty of dance, the organization has since expanded to other arts besides dance. Mudra Foundation’s goal is to provide motivation, inspiration, and joy to those in disadvantaged communities through arts. Visiting socially weak communities in Odisha with artists from the globe, giving dance/art workshops from 2006. Mudra Foundation [a non-profit organisation] was formed in 2009.”

“I think that because Odisha is relaxed, art will grow here. You might not understand Odissi till you try it, but it’s pretty cutting-edge. Flexibility is of course also needed, but the technique is extremely fine, so the details are followed exactly. Since Odisha is its origin, I thought that the talent (of the Odia people) for creating artistic things was amazing.”

The charm of Odisha is more than that of its rustic countryside. The people here excel at creativity by their very nature, says Masako. Besides, she believes in the pleasure of creating by herself and the power of art.

In recent years she has been active globally not only in Odissi dance but also in the field of contemporary dance. A look at the public performance being held at Stockholm’s Concert House.

“I always think about how art is important. Like if I were doing yoga, giving dance classes or designing clothes. Doing something (being engrossed in it) is the best part, and the money doesn’t matter, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a culture of creating, something like the joy of making?”

Even as a community with a socially disadvantaged status and one faced with grave circumstances, she wants them to know the joy of creating. She wants them to come in contact with the arts. Everyone has the right to enjoy art. This is the sentiment that their words, ‘Art for all’ is imbued with.

“When we started our activities, the aspect that was strong was delivering items donated out of goodwill to orphanages or institutions, leaving those activities to the government if possible, I want to proceed making activities that involve sharing art our main focus.” At present, during the Odisha Biennale, they go to villages and hold workshops with artists and invite children from communities in disadvantaged situations.

I would like to introduce some projects in progress under the activities of Mudra Foundation. I will be enquiring about each project in detail in my interviews.

1. The produce of Dhokra, a traditional brass craft

Producing a photo book featuring Dhokra “Lost into Art : Dhokra”, published in March 2017.
In continuation, they plan to lead a collaboration between designers and artisans.

2. Odisha Biennale 2017

Mudra Foundation, after a pre-event in 2012, has been organising a comprehensive art festival, the Odisha Biennale, every alternate year from 2013. They will be holding the 3rd Odisha Biennale this year (2017).

Text : Yoko Kobayashi (translated by Aumurto Chaudhury)
Images : Mudra Foundation

Related Data
(*1)Poverty Ratio 2013 – Indian average 21.92%, Odisha 32.59%. It is the 6th highest among all the states of India. It is calculated based on the cost requirement of maintaining the lowest standard of living focusing on food expenditure established by the government of India.
Source : Number and Percentage of Population below Poverty Line

Mudra Foundation Interview 2 (next)

This post is also available in Japanese.