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Inspired by cave paintings

With a firm resolve to preserve rock art in Tamil Nadu, ROOTS has reproduced some paintings on canvas, which are on display at the Marina Annexe Campus till March 29.

TRYING TO decipher the past, without the guiding light of signposts, is like a search in the dark. Art, many a time, provides these signposts; it may contain indelible signatures of the past. Fully alive to this fact, a group of artists, under the organisational name of ROOTS, are involved in efforts to preserve art forms that hold the key to our past.

As one of its projects, ROOTS has studied cave and rock art in Tamil Nadu, and reproduced some of them as paintings which are on display till March 29, at the Marina Annexe Campus, University of Madras.

The reproductions are of the rock-art found in Alampadi, Keelvalai, Nayanur, Padiyenthal and Setthavarai (all in Villupuram district), Sirumalai (in Dindugal district) and Thottappa Nayakanur (in Madurai).

Most of these pre-historical cave and rock paintings reflect hunting scenes, rituals, animals, signs and landscape.

"One of our objectives is to create awareness about rock art. For that to be possible, we have to first preserve this art which is facing a grave danger from stone fungus," says K. Arthi, managing trustee, ROOTS.

A rock painting in Alampadi has been traced on paper and reproduced on a life-size canvas. The painting is a welter of lines in red ochre. Other paintings bear colours such as white, yellow and black.

The paintings showcase a rich tapestry of images from days when man was more in tune with nature and had to hunt for food as animals do. One painting is on a deer in net, another shows giant lizards, another portrays sailors on a catamaran, hunting scenes predominate.... there are altogether 20 paintings. To simulate the surface of rocks, soft sand has been pasted on the canvas.

"Just as an animal hunts and carries its kill to its `territory' to gorge on it, pre-historic man after taking in the images that assaulted his senses, had to retire to the caves to assimilate and understand them. He was, in a manner of saying, chewing the cud; and these paintings are results of his ruminations," says artist Chandru, chairman, ROOTS.

ROOTS' objectives are, inter alia, preservation of monumental ruins, sculpture and paintings, research into indigenous arts and crafts, promotion of tribal art and culture and creation of audio-visual films on cultural themes. For more details, call 25378339. The organisation's address is: 65, Adanja Mudali Street, Mandaveli. You may also mail or visit


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