House of art – Neeraja Murthy, THE HINDU

Eighty-three-year-old Viswanatham Sita Mahalakshmi Sastry has opened the doors of her house to give space for art

Enterprising and enthusiastic are words often used to describe young individuals charging ahead in life to make their dreams come true. Eighty-three-year-old Viswanatham Sita Mahalakshmi Sastry has just done that with the launch of a new art premises VSITA (Sita Sastry’s Premises) at Road No. 67 in Jubilee Hills. At an age when most older citizens prefer to sit back and maybe do nothing, the octogenarian has opened the doors of her residence and transformed it into a space for art. Artist Uma Makala recently displayed her works at a solo painting exhibition.

“I have been always fond of art but couldn’t join any institute,” shares Sita Sastry. She had attended a few classes in Delhi but couldn’t continue due to her husband’s transferable government job. As a hobby artist, she found a friend in (late) Remani Nambiar of Shrishti Art Gallery. Sita and Remani along with three friends learnt art from Sirajuddin. “Initially we would learn at my house and then we shifted to Remani’s house. Each one had to pay an amount of Rs. 2000 to run the gallery (Shrishti). Being a government officer’s wife, I said I cannot pay so much and dropped out but would still visit the place and accompanied Remani when she visited artists Laxman Aelay, Stanley Suresh and Fawad (Fawad Tamkanat) to collect their works and display it at the gallery,” she recalls.

Dream come true

Sita’s dream has always been to start a gallery but couldn’t fulfil it. Recently when she met young artists during an art show, she felt a renewed energy. “There are scores of passionate young artists, some of them don’t have a degree but wish to show their works. They cannot afford big galleries. I admire their enthusiasm to go against odds and I want to provide a platform. I cannot construct a new gallery; instead I am converting the drawing room and corridor of my house into a gallery,” she states. For this, Sita plans to renovate and construct the premises; till then works will be displayed in the drawing room.

When we ask her about privacy and security issues, she says she doesn’t worry much. “There are not many visitors as only known people come to see the works. I have nothing to lose at this age and everyone knows I don’t have much money so no one will come to rob me,” she laughs. Sita who doesn’t like to sleep in the afternoons, is tech savvy and leads an active life. “The first step is the most difficult step but once you have taken it, you will find strength to go ahead. Also If I don’t fulfil my dream at this age, when will I do it?”

On March 22 when she turns 84, artists and art enthusiasts in the city will raise a toast to her will, courage and a big heart.

Beauty of the soul

It has been four years since artist Uma Makala shifted base from Nigeria. Since then she has been active on the city’s art scape showing her works. “We couldn’t go out freely in Nigeria and I would spend my time indoors,” she says. Passionate about art, she utilised her free time to engage in art. She turned around her surroundings, thoughts and her inner self to create works of art. Though most of her paintings are on mythological characters, she likes to show the harmony and serenity. Her paintings take you on a soulful journey and exude the spirit of love, warmth and herald a positive spirit. “Be it Radha, Krishna or Shiva Shakthi, I like to show the oneness and blissfulness between them.” She paints her ‘women’ and ‘gods’ with closed eyes as she wants to look into the deeper emotions, beauty of their soul and the spiritual growth. Uma met Sita at a show and is in awe of her courage and confidence. “When Sita garu offered the space to display works, I immediately said yes to display my works. Hats off to her will power!”

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