A window to native cultures

Tribal art from Gond, Khond and Santhal regions depict a way of life

Updated - December 02, 2016 04:03 pm IST

Published - November 17, 2016 04:59 pm IST - HYDERABAD

A painting by Jangarh Singh Shyam

A painting by Jangarh Singh Shyam

The paintings and sculptures on display at Shrishti, at first glance to an art novice, might seem like generic figurines and drawings one brackets under tribal art.

Tribal art it is, but those created by master artists who emerged from these regions. Their work speaks volumes of their technique and provides a window into native cultures.

For instance, we would have come across many animal figurines. A closer look at bronze figurines from Bastar and Khond reveals the detailing on the surface, done either with hand-drawn or press-ejected wires of beeswax, locally termed dhuna. This method reflects the technique used by those who weave mats and baskets in Chattisgarh and Southern Orissa.

Animals such as elephants, horses, deers, bulls and tigers form the bulk of these figurines, occasionally paving way for depiction of men and women. One of Jangarh Singh Shyam’s sculptures is of seven dancers from Bastar. The artist who belonged to Gond tribe in Madhya Pradesh and is celebrated for his work based on deities worshipped by the Gond tribe.

Another artist who specialises in Gond work, Ram Singh Urveti, was inspired by Jangarh Singh Shyam. Urveti is recognised both for his sculptures and paintings, through which he recreates scenes from the villages — of people, their deities and habitats. A few of his works bear his signature style, of showing a tree trunk drawn in a fluid style, with its branches representing different aspects of the tribal region — figures of village deities, birds, animals, people in the farm and so on. A bull or elephant-faced human form, the use of intricate criss cross patterns, fine line drawings are his hall mark. While some of his paintings are ink on paper in black and white, others burst with deep shades of blue and red.

In most of the paintings, one can see fine lines, overlapping of geometric forms and plenty of dots that give a layered look.

Notably, one of Jangarh Singh Shyam’s painting on a bird ready to take flight, shows the artist’s eye for detailing where he uses hundreds of minute interlocking feathers to create a visual imagery.

In contrast to these are paintings from Santhal, the tribal community from Bihar. Using natural pigments on paper, these reflect the tribe’s way of life — men and women working in farms and village festivals. At times, people are simply an outline against a deep ochre background.

‘20 Century Tribal Art and Bronzes’ is on display at Shrishti art gallery, Jubilee Hills, till December 5.

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