Spotlight on tribal and folk art

The river painted in sepia tone, flows from the top left of the canvas, descends to the right bottom, dividing the space diagonally. The forest land with rich flora and fauna and the daily activities of rural life depicted on the one side of the river, slowly gives way to a concrete jungle, with cars, buses and trains plying and factories spewing fumes. This painting in Warli style done by artist Rajesh Chaitya Vangad captures the contrasting rural and urban life.

Sitting next to him are Jitendra Dala Behera, Saura artist from Odisha and Warli artist Hareshwar Nathu Vanga, who are painting images based on ritualistic forms of expression. Behera depicts a ritual connected to death, while Vanga opts for wedding rituals that are painted on the walls of every home during a marriage ceremony.

These two paintings, along with many more in varied styles from across India, highlight the felicity with which artists adapt to the changing environment even as they continue to follow their traditional style. This spirit has helped in the survival of the arts in each region. These works have been created as a part of the ‘Tribal, Folk and Traditional Art Conclave’ presented by the Lalit Kala Akademi Regional Centre in collaboration with DakshinaChitra Heritage Museum.

The pillared corridors and open central courtyard at DakshinaChitra provide a perfect ambience for the artists to interact, exchange ideas, understand each other’s creative language and tradition, before creating works in their signature style.

“Every year, shortly after Durga puja, the walls of our houses are given a coat of gobar on which is applied black soil. We paint lines and shapes with white soil, we use combs and nails to create designs to herald the festive spirit during Diwali,” says Anita Devi and Sogiya Devi from Jharkhand, even as they demonstrate the process.

They carry the coloured soil from Jharkhand to create their paintings. The stark bold imagery of their work finds resonance in the works of Ishwar Chowda Naik from Karnataka as he paints a palanquin with four traditional colours — yellow ochre, red, white and black. He paints the dots and criss-cross lines to create textural patterns on a design created by flat application of colour. Viswanath G, working on his canvas, shows how he has adapted the art of weaving baskets. To save the native Chittara art form from becoming extinct, his family is pursuing it full time besides training others.

The images of deities painted with linear strokes and muted tones of an earthy colour pallette found in Kerala murals are recreated in the paintings of Athira Sajith.

Adapting the same traditional techniques to a contemporary subject, the monochromatic artwork of Naveen Kumar blends the two in an impressive manner.

Form of embroidery

By the careful placing of stones and gold leaf foil, Swarna Raja creates a large visual of Perumal in a standing posture, integrating it with elements from Dasavatharam. Sujani Devi from Bihar runs the needle through the fabric to create images of her environment through Sujani Kala, a form of embroidery. Showing amazing enterprise, she has created an embroidered artwork on the free cycle scheme of the Nitish Kumar Government. The images of girls on cycles forms the border of the work, while the central space details their activities from home to school and depicts a road with a row of children astride cycles en route to school.

A 3,000-year-old rock art site Ezhuthu paarai in Kothagiri in Nilgiris is the inspiration for the Kurumba paintings revived by the C.P. Art Foundation. The paintings created by the artistes Krishnan and Balsubramania follows the techniques and monochromatic colour pallette of the cave paintings as they depict the life around them in their work.

Kalamkari, the popular art form, is represented by artists M. Vishwanath and Thilak Reddy from Andhra Pradesh, while its lesser-known Tamil Nadu counterpart is represented by Prabhakaran, Lakshminarayanan and Praveen through animal and bird motifs.

Used as a visual accompaniment for travelling musicians in the past, Cheriyal painting by the Nakashi family from Andhra Pradesh has been adapted to canvas by Pavan Kumar Dhanalakota, Venkataramana Dhanalakota, Vinay Kumar and Nagilla Ganesh. Tales from puranas and the epics are painted in vibrant colours. The equally bright coloured spaces that form the background in the works of Prabhakar Maharana become muted with an array of dainty Patachitra images.

A painting style very similar to Gond, yet distinct in its usage of colour is seen in the works of Maheshwar Naik from Odisha. The image of a row of dancing figures in a spiral formation, a signature element in most Warli paintings, is integrated creatively by Jayesh Mahadu Dhanap into a jungle scene. He transforms the spiral figures into a row of ants.

These imaginative explorations by the artists gave an edge to this conclave, curated by the regional secretary of Lalit Kala Akademi Sovan Kumar and Gita Hudson, curator, Art Galleries, Dakshinachitra.

“This conclave was envisaged as a platform for artists to create works of merit in their respective styles. Along with works from other centres, they will be displayed in a major national exhibition of art. Ten of them will be chosen for National Awards,” says Uttam Pacharne, chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi.

It is definitely a laudable idea to include the folk and tribal art into the mainstream, but the organisers also need to be more sensitive to the difficulties faced by the artists. For instance, it was insisted that each artist make two 3ft by 4ft canvas paintings in seven days. “The move by the Government to make all payments online is fine, but there should also be some arrangements in place for cash dispersal because many tribal artists need cash to travel back and forth to their native place. A little more care should also be taken about their travel and art material needs, this will ease their tension and help them to concentrate on their art,” points out Gita Hudson.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 12:48:46 PM |

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