Published: 06th November 2020
This 29-year-old wildlife conservation artist talks about intricacy, her work in Ladakh and educating people about birds
Niharika Rajput makes intricate sculptures of birds and pays great attention to detail, right down to every feather. And this is how she is using her art to convey the message of conservation
It wasn't so much the influence of living in the beautiful and green Rupa Valley of Arunachal Pradesh that inspired the dormant artist within Niharika Rajput, but rather the lack of a connection she felt with nature while moving to Delhi. Who wouldn't? After chasing fireflies as a child and spotting exotic birds like the white-throated kingfisher, the urban set-up of Delhi can be a little bit of a downer. But it wasn't until she pursued English Literature from Hansraj College and moved on to sculpting, that this 29-year-old discovered her purpose of being a conservation artist.
Common kingfisher | (Pic: Niharika Rajput)
Birds and more
Experimentation began in 2015, spurred on by the beautiful birds she spotted while on a trip to Himachal Pradesh and documentaries like Birds of Paradise. "I was so fascinated with these creatures," says Niharika, sounding like this fascination is still very much alive within her. So with her deft hands, she sculpts birds using paper and wire or epoxy. Sounds simple enough? Oh, no. It is the very definition of intricacy as the artist draws the bird and every feather on it on paper, cuts it out, puts it all together and paints each feather, individually. And this she does for a living. "I was just driven by the desire to make it more and more realistic. My aim, basically, was to fool people, it was to make them wonder whether the birds are real," she shares.
Splendid fairywren | (Pic: Niharika Rajput)
So how did conservation come in? Her very first project was with Birders Against Wildlife Crime for whom she built two Hen Harrier sculptures. Then came the prestigious residency programme in British Columbia, Canada in September 2016 where she created Hummingbird sculptures that helped spread awareness about them. But the pièce de résistance was Ladakh's first-ever Bird Festival in 2018. "This seven-day-long affair happened without any funding. There were workshops, exhibitions, bird watching trips and so much more," exclaims Niharika. She made this happen with the help of Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO) and Dara Shikoh Foundation. But why Ladakh? It all started because of the black-necked crane she spotted while she was there once. "This highly revered bird is what I connected with and the place itself with its spiritual and pristine vibes," she confesses.
The mating | (Pic: Niharika Rajput)
New plans taking flight
This year might have proved to be a downer because of you-know-what and no festival can happen now, but Niharika has big plans. "We want to open a Nature Interpretation Centre in Ladakh and involve schools as well, principals of the schools there are very keen on it. Another aspect they are keen on is bird clubs in schools," shares Niharika, sounding excited. Having organised many workshops and delivered talks in schools, she is very enthused about increasing the involvement of youngsters in this cause.
Tufted coquette hummingbird | (Pic: Niharika Rajput)
Now coming back to Niharika's intricate artwork and workshops, she says, "It is not about conducting a workshop, it's about building the model of the bird. Even today, I have children from different corners of India messaging pictures of their work to me, the very fact that they are still at it is so heart-warming. There are others who have sent pictures of birds and asked me how to sculpture of them," says Niharika, whose muse is nature.
Ruby-throated humminbird | (Pic: Niharika Rajput)
For more on her, check out niharikarajput.com