Some journeys are not just overwhelming but creatively fulfilling too. My most recent trip to Gunehr, a village in Kangra Valley was one of its kinds. Quaint location, unpretentious beauty and wholesome village makes Gunehr. For me, it was just the right place to rejuvenate at, after being afflicted with viral for two weeks. When I was packing my bag, I was not even sure if I would be able to do the trip but the desire to see the unseen kept me going. In the second half of the day, I felt quite better and by late evening I was the first one to reach the Sarai Rohilla Station, Delhi from where we had to board our train towards Pathankot. The moment I met my super enthusiastic traveler friends, half of my weakness was already gone. Rest of it was well taken care by the simplicity of the village, deliciousness served at 4tables restaurant and our discussions around something as unique as ShopArt ArtShop 2.
Green little getaway is Gunehr but not just it!
As they say a traveler always comes back with more than what a tourist would ever notice. Gladly we are travelers because a tourist will blatantly call it just another village in the hills. Located four hours away from Pathankot, Gunehr is the village of the Gaddis and Bara Bhangalis in the Baijnath Tehsil of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, India. The village isn’t anything out-of-the-world, nor does it promise gorgeous landscapes, pretty cottages or charming attractions but at the end of the day you ought to love this green little getaway for its immaculate beauty, friendly locals and brazen simplicity. In one word, I would love to call it soulful.
On the first day, it was utterly peaceful to stroll around, talk to the villagers, smile at them, enjoy the unexpected rains, eat Maggi from the only open shop (Anil’s shop), click pictures and learn to take things slowly. Trust me by the second day I was already in love with the laid-back life when I woke up in Frank’s beautiful boutique hotel made of mud and wood. The wide and common balcony was my favorite place where I could sip tea and watch the village and its activities in silence. The next best thing about this trip was walking down to Frank’s 4tables restaurant to gorge on the sumptuous breakfast (made by him) and then challenging him with umpteen questions around ShopArt ArtShop. On the third and the last day, we did not say it but we knew that each one of us had lost our heart, somewhere in Gunehr.
ShopArt ArtShop 2 is an art fair unlike any other. It is one beautiful initiative that you wouldn’t have heard of before. Artists from India and around the world come here in the village, take up empty village shops and work on art concepts. Well, this may sound simple or complicated but its bit of both actually. The theme is not easy to get but once you understand it, you will love it. Art has many forms and an artist may have many ways to present it to the world but here the art lovers are expected to attempt to bridge the great rural-urban divide. It is about taking art to an entirely new level, outside its contemporary settings. At the same time, Frank insists that this Art festival is not about teaching the villagers nor setting them aloof. It is about local and urban engagement where everyone comes together to put up a great show. Once the artists have created their art during the paid residency, their art works become a part of Art festival (Mela). The local elements, music concerts, performances, live shows, film screenings, fashion parade, podium discussions make it a complete cultural program.
I fell in love with the concept not because I heard about its inception from the horse’s mouth but because I was drawn to its inclusive concept. The beauty lies in its uniqueness. The idea is not to make this event famous and invite crowd but it is about creating a new art scene in 21st century. And most importantly it is not just about the artists from India and World but about the villagers too. Together, they all play a pretty significant role in transforming Gunehr in an art valley. As per Frank, the villagers are very co-operative. In 2013, when ShopArt ArtShop happened for the first time, they had offered their empty shops with no qualms. Initially they were intimidated with the artists from the cities but in a few days they could all been seen offering helping hands to the visitors. In some time they were doing their bits and pieces and by the end of three weeks they were all over everything. In fact everyone that I met in the village was very excited about the upcoming Mela as if they had been waiting for the second edition.
The Glory and Goodness of Art!
Here are just some of the things that will make you fall in love with Frank’s conceptual art project- ShopArt ArtShop
1)Transformation of the local shops of a mountain village in art spaces is a kicking idea.
2)The creations are exhibited later and the art scene is complemented with a range of music events, film screenings, local food and handicraft stalls.
3)The local community becomes an integral part of the whole event. Thank God, there is someone who is not just talking about progress and development of a village but working towards it too.
4)The festival helps the urbanites and the villagers mingle, come together and do things together because art has no restrictions, neither any rules.
5)Here is an art event which is challenging the existing norms and prejudices around art. This one aims to bring art out of cities and galleries and take it to villages.
6)My favorite aspect about it is that its not you and me but everybody can be a part of this Art Fair in this age of technology.You can do a virtual trip of the festival through Internet platform.
7)And I must tell you that ShopArt ArtShop 1 of 2013 was entirely financed by Frank/ the 4tables project without any sponsors. He conceptualized it and put it into effect. The need of the hour is to make it self-sustainable. Let us help to make it super successful.
We, 4 travel bloggers ( Abhinav, Dipanshu, Parnashree and I) come from different backgrounds. We have known each other for a couple of months but this was our first trip where we were huddled together. Anyone who shared the coach with us on our train journeys (Udhampur Express) or met us in those three days would refuse to believe that we were not best of friends. We made a great team! Cheers to the lovely trip to Gunehr until we return again this May-June for the ShopArt ArtShop 2.