"My grandmother used to paint Madhubani art... As part of our village tradition, I learned the art from my grandmother and my paternal aunt."
"I'm Sheela Devi and I'm from Bihar where i was born in 1976. I have three sisters and two brothers. When I was young, girls were not allowed to go to school. Although I wasn't educated, I've always wanted to study.
"As a little girl, I used to spend time playing. Since I didn't have much to do, my grandfather encouraged me to learn about Madhubani art from my grandmother. Although I was not very keen at first, I gradually began to like it.
"My grandmother used to paint Madhubani art on walls, earthen pots, floors and canvases, along with the other ladies of the village who were taught and encouraged by a local artist. As part of our village tradition, I learned Madhubani art from my grandmother and my paternal aunt.
"When I was ten years old, I got married. After five years of marriage, I arrived in Delhi with my husband. Initially, he was unhappy about me painting, saying it was a waste of time and money, without any profits. But I managed to convince him otherwise, and he now encourages me to paint. My three children also love my paintings.
"In the village, we used colors procured from flowers and leaves. Because these are not available in Delhi, I use acrylic and tempera paints. I start by drawing the design and adding lines. Then, I use bright colors to fill in and decorate the images. I've drawn many designs, but my favorite are the Hindu gods — Ganesha, Radha, Krishna and Lakshmi, among others. My first painting was of the Goddess Durga, who symbolizes the divine energy 'Shakti' in Hindu tradition.
"Along with painting on canvas, I also paint on apparel such as saris, salwar suits and dupattas, tablecloths and other items which people bring to me to embellish. Lately, I've started painting on papier maché images, which I also craft by hand. I have a hectic schedule at home, while taking care our my family. I take a few hours a day for painting.
"I've shown my paintings and papier maché creations in different exhibitions. I also teach other women how to paint.
“My parents are very happy that I am participating in so many exhibitions and doing well in the field of Madhubani art, despite not knowing how to read or write. I want to make a name for myself and my village to become well-known someday. I want to exhibit my paintings all over India and I would like to provide my children with a better future."