The Gond art show curated by Rati Khemka Malaiya unfolds a chapter in the history of the art form

Ever wondered how a simple act of adding dots and dashes can lead to a colourful canvas filled with imagination and message? Works of 12 artists from the state of Madhya Pradesh on display at the Kalakriti Art Gallery showcase the beauty of dots and dashes and the tales behind them. The colourful and depictive series is a result of curator Rati Khemka Malaiya’s attempt to introduce the history of art and culture of the Gonds to other regions, thus enabling a cross pollination of cultural and artistic sensibilities. Explaining the art which originated from a region called Gond, Rati says, “The Gond art form is relatively less exposed. The Gond tribal community is one of India’s largest indigenous communities and their art is a mix of memories, emotions, experiences, dreams, perceptions and imagination, juxtaposed with an expression of their everyday quest for life. The Gond art is a rendezvous with the belief that “viewing a good image begets good luck.”

As a result most of the art works on display at gallery are quite explanatory and pay homage to the Indian Gods and their forms very indirectly and in a colourful manner. The fine dashes and shaped dots at times look like fine print in some places and in some others give the feel of a spray paint or sponge art. Only a closer look unravels the intricate details made by the brush. Numerous Gods and Goddesses, strange and exotic birds, flying snakes, tigers, dogs and cattle, beautiful trees and several other entities who inhabited the age old songs of the Gond tribe, are some of the subject matters of this art form exhibited in the show.

According to the artists, Gond art was originally painted as symbols of good fortune on the walls and floors of Gondi dwellings. And the ones who were used to make these paintings were called the Pradhans, who were traditionally the balladeers of the once mighty Gond kings. “They were responsible for the collective memory of the tribe through narration. Once every three years, the Pradhans would make an appearance at their Gond patrons house, and narrate the saga of their lives. The patrons would in turn make provisions for the livelihood of the Pradhan community. Over the years, the waning socio-economic standing of the Gonds led to the decline of this tradition, and left the Pradhans without their source of livelihood,” explains Rati.

Rati as a curator who was very recently exposed to Gond art says, “The dot and dash art of the Gonds, is more than what meets the eye. This illustrative narrative of stories, nature, mythical legends, by an indigenous community has made its way to museums in Paris, Tokyo and New York. Yet, an art form as relevant and modern as a Matisse or a Picasso, still struggles for its rightful place in contemporary spaces.”