The social trend is determined by the people who are conscious of collective and personal taste influenced by the prevailing culture within the specific community. The spiritual zeal for religious affairs is one factor that facilitates the community’s social taste, the social taste of the community, even as secular images of popular culture could create a tremendous impact upon the people and society. In this regard, the western world is the role model that provided the iconic elements for the rest of the world to follow, even for religious considerations. The Buddhist oriental images are being popularised by the Mongolian race, although Buddha originated from the Indian subcontinent. The Christian occidental images of Europe dominated the other Christian traditions elsewhere in the world, and for that matter, the renaissance art of the great masters is the bastion of Christian identity. The Islamic art of the Middle East nations is the standard imposed upon followers worldwide. The Hindu art tradition is confined to the dominated regions of the Indian subcontinent and certain South East Asian countries, even as the local flavour is incorporated wherever found appropriate. The imitation and simulation of superficial elements of the alien tradition could be a mockery of the original custom prevalent in the community. This is one aspect of influence that might not be authentic or suitable for the particular community. The modern feature of western origin might be proper for certain situations, even as generally it could appear ridiculous. The community with strong cultural traditions will more than often adapt the foreign elements in the local essence, while the ancient community with limited cultural identity is vulnerable to the improper simulation of strange characteristics. Some communities could adapt the unfamiliar portion of the modern features and create a local version of the same, while others borrowed entirely and neglected their original characteristics. These situations will facilitate the emergence of improvised characteristics of the various communities. In this respect, the larger community will impose its tradition and the smaller communities could be vulnerable to assimilation or totally overwhelmed by the austere culture. All these developments will affect the visual culture of the community from diverse sensibilities of dress, food, social behaviour, and customary practices and manipulate the ethnic taste of the marginalised communities.
In the absence of the visual folk art tradition, the Khasi community could not be more vulnerable to rapid changes and influences from external forces. Nevertheless, the vibrant ethnic Khasi folklore is providing ample scope for visual expression even against the onslaught of modern civilisation, digital technology, and contemporary art, even as the postmodern concept shall refurbish the essence of ethnic art. In modern civilisation, digital information technology has revolutionised the entire political, social, and cultural sphere with both positive and negative impacts on art. On the one hand, digital technology has simplified and enhanced the application of art, while on the other it has made several artists and pseudo-art practitioners to be dependent on the facilities provided by digital technology. The distinction between art, science, or commerce became difficult to segregate, because of interdependence with each other to the extent that real passion and creativity are being subdued by the vitality of the luxurious and sophisticated advanced technology. The emergence and supremacy of art galleries in determining the credibility of the artists have further encumbered disadvantages for the simple artists. Although, in the North Eastern Region of India the role of curators and art galleries is limited due to the lack of market potential. The prospect of art in the region including Meghalaya depends upon the individual artists and few promoters. The usual demand of the general consumers including Government institutions is a realistic replica of the cultural and natural heritage of the people and the land. Although artists are reluctant to create such artworks, they are compelled to cater to the demand of the clients and the independent contemporary artworks are being kept for occasional exhibitions, while the clientele is limited to the selected few connoisseurs.
In particular, the motivation for visual exercises and applications in Meghalaya and Shillong city was generated through the Western popular culture of illustrated comic books and Hollywood movies. The western cowboy comics and war stories of the first and second world wars have a widespread reach even to the rural areas, while western movies were confined to the urban folks. The other visual culture that was prevalent prior to the emergence of television is the cinema shows of Christian evangelical and Biblical stories by the Roman Catholic missionaries throughout the length and breadth of the erstwhile composite state of Assam, particularly the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills, Nagaland, Mizoram, and parts of former North East Frontier Agency or Arunachal Pradesh and certain pockets of Tripura including the tribal-dominated areas of Assam inhabited by the Bodo, Tiwa, Lalung, Karbi, Kachari, Rabha, Koch, and the Kuki in parts of Manipur. Many aspiring artists of yesteryears are greatly influenced by Phantom, Flash Gordon, Superman, Batman, Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Tonto, Davy Crocket, Axa, Modesty Blaise, the Walt Disney characters, Asterix caricatures, the adventures of TinTin, Popeye the Sailorman, Robin Hood, Hans Anderson, the Red Indian icons, and many European and American heroes of the Marvel comic books tradition. The movie heroes and heroines like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gregory Peck, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Anthony Quint, Marylin Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and others, the comedians’ Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope the music bands and icons like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Cliff Richards, Glen Campbell, Perry Como, Bob Dylan and many more; also the country singers like Kenny Rogers, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton, and others; the legendary superheroes like James Bond, Billy the Kid, and the urban cowboy like John Travolta, Scott Glen and even Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. All these are legendary celebrities that have created trends in fashion, entertainment, and music, and influenced personal behaviour, and human values apart from the visual image replica on various media. This was the old trend of yesteryears, and nowadays there is an extravagant bombardment of the internet and other forms of digital information technology available at the palm of every individual young and old alike.
The Western culture, particularly America, became the iconic entity for global consumption and there is a decline in the creative and original products of the present generation of artists because the technology could be achieved with precision in every aspect of the visual application. Fortunately, there are art institutions and various cultural organizations that are taking up challenges to counter the undue influence of digital technology and are instrumental to impart the genuine essence of art to motivate creativity, originality, and innovation to the next level, even as the general clientele is hell-bent for the excellence and perfection of the products of digital technology. In this regard, the essence of art will be reverted back to the elite segment of society as the general public is driven away by superficial elements of the art market. This is the challenge for the art fraternity to cope with the contemporary situation and to reinvent and sustain the true essence of art. The other challenge is for commercial art collectors and art galleries as they are the primary instruments to facilitate the prevalence of quality art and at the same time, they need to sustain the market. In this respect, the emphasis will be on the brand name of the artist with excellence in both the quality of the artwork and the current demand in the market. The political history of the region also has an impact on art throughout society. The onslaught of British colonial imperialism has brought about tremendous changes in society and influenced various aspects of community affairs. British supremacy is overwhelmed with many things and the modern lifestyle fascinated the local people and became the mainstay for generations that most of the local cultural traditions eroded and replaced with improvised elements of the alien culture. As has been mentioned earlier that Khasi culture is bereft of visual folk art, and the spectacular European images of landscapes, royal monarchy, and cityscapes including the Christian religious pictures became the favourite novelties for every household, particularly in the Anglo Khasi families. Through the ages, the specific visual art practice among the emerging aspiring artists of the region has been liable to depend on the facilities provided by the modern industrial products and services. The ethnic components of every community is prominent in their artworks because of their vibrant folk art tradition; however, the Khasi artists could neither derive any ethnic elements nor invent any image tradition of local taste. Therefore, the excellent European and Christian pictorial convention was easier to replicate and prevail in the Khasi visual vocabulary. Initially, the artworks of Naresh Tamang have been able to establish the Khasi ethnic ambiance more than any other Khasi artists, even if they depicted any local elements, there was a certain appeal to the western atmosphere.
Perhaps, Marius Maiñsing Shanpru, Mawkordor Sohtun and Raphael Warjri could imbibe local flavours to a certain extent in their artworks about Khasi culture. Otherwise, there are ethnic depictions of Khasi culture with Western and modern charm in some artworks by certain Khasi artists. A few of the examples are the local ethnic articles and properties being incorporated in European housing patterns, or Gothic-style churches that are prevalent in Khasi territories; a Grizzly bear or a Bengal tiger, or an Arctic reindeer are being incorporated in the Khasi hunting scenes; a vulgar pose of the European fashion model is portrayed as the ethnic Khasi feminine with certain folk articles; a modern muscular male figure is being rendered as the ethnic Khasi warrior. The monolith, the bow and arrows, and the sword and shield are the common Khasi folk images found in every visual application related to local culture and tradition. The local creative artists usually succumbed to the aspiration and demands of the respective clients that are obsessed with such conventional images, even if they asserted innovation.