• ‘Behind the Mask’ | Kolkata, India

    Behind a mask, wearing a mask, rejecting a mask, letting a mask flow away in a river... Indian perfoming artist Jhuma Kundu tells some of her stories sharing pictures of her performances


    Reflecting Life

    I remember my first performance in Santiniketan, back in 2013. The theme was 'Reflections of Life'. I personified myself as a mirror which shows a reflection of our society, of its brighter sides as well as of its darker shades. The passers-by, who really represent the society, became part of the performance, carrying out the activities usually performed by an individual in their day-to-day life.


    In 2015 I had the opportunity to repeat the performance in France. As an artist conveys their feelings to the world by using a canvas, I used my mask as a canvas, as well as a mirror to reflect our lives. I focused on the ups and downs, memorable moments, as well as the big and small incidents that were connected to me and my surroundings.

    Another time I dressed up as a clown and stood behind the mirror. My face was a mirror for the audience portraying incidents from their day-to-day life. Their actions were reflected by my gestures.

    Sharing Happiness

    For a performance at the Art Symposium in Pondicherry, I dressed up as a clown again, and by this time it was clear to me that I wanted to connect more strongly with the people in the audience. As it was a street performance, many were the attendees. The theme was to spread happiness, by doing what a clown usually does to keep his audience interested and happy. It was a very successful act, and it remained very special to me. It also taught me that spreading happiness  is possible only when you, as an individual, are happy.

    When performing in the Isparta Rose Art Festival, in Turkey, in an effort to reach out to the people, I even painted the faces of the audience with their smiling faces.

    Masks of a Human

    Every human being wears different faces, or masks, and only after a stipulated time each person removes a mask and the next mask arrives on their face; and so on, until there is no mask left.

    With this idea in mind, trying to represent it, I made many masks out of paper and put them all on my face. I then went along a river and started removing those masks, at a stipulated time interval, and left them to float with the flow of the river until the end, when all masks were removed. In the end, only our true face can be carried along and all fake masks fall with time.

    Freedom of the soul

    At the Bangla Biennale, in 2018 the international artists, the villagers and the audience at large were involved. They were all wearing a mask and were trying to put different masks on my face. Here the masks were symbols of different human characters that were eventually rejected by me. 


    The last time I wrapped foil paper around my body until I felt warm and uncomfortable. The stage had ropes hanging from above.They represented people who speak badly of others. As I started walking and moving through those ropes, I fought with them. As a reaction, the foil on my body slowly came off revealing my inner self. We need to leave our uncomfortable zones, those that make us unhappy. Always better to be who you are. Then you will be happy in your life.

    Jhuma Kundu : Behind the Mask


    Jhuma Kundu is a resident of Kolkata, India. She completed her M.F.A from Visva-Bharati University, Kala Bhavana Institute in 2015. She currently works at the Lalit Kala Academy in Kolkata as a ceramicist. She is a qualified ceramics artist but has also attained maestro in performance art.