As the desert around Pushkar fills with thousands of horses, cattle and camels, smoke rises lazily from the camp fires and the sun sets beyond the sacred lake. This is a destination where reality collides with imagination and inspires you to take up your brushes, to commit it in some small way to canvas.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate to visit various destinations often to see festivals and horses: Pushkar cattle fair in India, El Rocio in Andalusia as well as the more peaceful Tarn and Loire Valley in France. The colour and vitality of the festival gatherings is always thrilling to experience, the memory of which keeps the paint flowing long after. The images are important but also the need to activate the painted surface and create movement and urgency, reflecting the spirit and energy of the lived experience. Each painting strives to be unique as accident and chance combine with intention.
PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR
The Pushkar camel fair is one of India’s largest annual livestock and cultural events and takes place over several days in Rajasthan, India.
Every year the small town of Pushkar comes to life with thousands of visitors. Tribal families from the villages in the Thar desert arrive over many days in camel trains with horses and cattle to trade, a chance to exchange news and enjoy one of India’s most colourful gatherings.
Tiny streets are packed with religious pilgrims and visitors, a riot of colour and noise.
But venture a few minutes out into the desert and the atmosphere changes: a vast horizon of tents and campfires, thousands of horses, camels and cattle and an air of quiet, deliberate purpose as the animals are cared for and the all-important trading is conducted. Some of the finest Marwari horses are to be seen here racing up and down between the tents. But everywhere there are quieter, more intimate scenes unfolding. Families are gathered around fires, preparing the meals, the horses, camels and cattle sharing the same space. They are, in many cases, smaller more modest looking creatures but every bit as beautiful, treated with such warmth and affection as they play a central role in family life.
EL ROCIO ANDALUCIA
This is a pilgrimage to the heart of Andalusia with over 100 brotherhoods arriving by horse and on foot in traditional caravans pulled by lines of mules or cattle. Waves of colourful outfits flow into the beautiful location in the province of Huelva, Andalusia – an unusual looking destination, like a wild West town and where many of the spaghetti westerns were filmed. A fitting backdrop to the festival as people gather to pay homage to the thirteenth century statue of the virgin.
After the festival the brotherhoods return to the many towns and cities and we joined the brotherhood of Jerez de la Frontera, for a three day trek through the national park of Doñana.
We walked all day long, holding on to the mules’ harnesses as they helped to drag us through the often, thick sands. Nights were spent in small tents sleeping out with the animals, drifting off while listening to flamenco guitar, singing and dancing around the campfires.