Gond artists’ tryst with the folklore

An experimental graphic narrative on marine plywood by Gond artists Durgabai and Subhash Vyam from Madhya Pradesh adds to the spirit of the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale.

From the conventional frescos called Gondi Bhitti Chitrakala, done using natural dyes on walls, the artist couple has moved to a wall-based installation telling the story of a woman from their lore.

Instead of drawing figurines and the flora and fauna part of their tribal folklore, they have cut out shapes in plywood and fixed them on the four walls and pillars of a room in Aspinwall House.

The work, Dus Motin Kanya and Jal Devata, which tells the story of five brothers and their sister living in a cosmology where humans live in harmony with nature, is part of the infra projects envisioned by KMB-18 curator Anita Dube.

“Madam wanted us to try exploring new things,” recalls Durgabai. “That’s when we suggested to her we would paint on marine plywood. She loved the idea.”

Subhash says the technique employed in the art is as ancient as the story that is passed down generations of the Gond community.

“Dus Motin Kanya narrates various incidents in the life of a girl by the same name. From her birth till her marriage,” he adds.

“It focuses on how parents treat their only daughter as a princess. And what happens to her when they pass away,” says Durgabai. The girl, who has five brothers, is considered a precious jewel by her family. But as their parents age, they ask the sons to look after their sister. They again remind them not to send her outside. As time passes, the brothers get married and go to the city for work and ask their wives to take care of the sister.

The wives agree, but they get tired of it overtime and start mistreating the girl. They even plot to kill her and push her into the well before a bird saves her.

“It’s a story based on mythology, but the subjects of our painting include elements from nature composed within the canvas,” notes Durgabai. “We try to showcase how the world has been constantly evolving.”

Durgabai has co-authored the award winning The Night Life of Trees and has done illustrations for books such as Turning the Pot and Tilling the Land. She has, together with her husband Subhash, illustrated Bhimayana, a book on 20th-century reformer-politician-jurist Bhimrao Ambedkar.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 7:24:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/gond-artists-tryst-with-the-folklore/article25792811.ece

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