Enchanting narrative of tribal art and culture


Colourful dotted patterns of birds and animals or the intricate black and white sketches of a range  of everyday activities intrigue your sensibilities at once.

Manifest in these paintings is the lore of the tribal way of life, tantalising a viewer to dig beneath the surface and understand the rich traditions of tribes at ‘Aadichitra’, an exhibition of folk art from the collection of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd. (Trifed) at India International Centre, Annexe, recently.

Painting assiduously, without raising her head even once from her canvas, Indu Bai Marawi, sits next to her husband, Ram Narayan Marawi, as she muses over her first encounter with Gond art, “It’s been almost two decades that the two of us have been creating Gond paintings,” says the Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh-based artist recounting how they had to come down from the nature’s grove in Amarkantak to the city life in Bhopal for creating an art that sells commercially. “Initially, we used to paint our houses during festivals. Using natural colours made out of mud, for red and yellows, cow-dung cakes for green and more, we created motifs out of our everyday lives,” says
the artist.

The exhibition displayed four different spectacles of tribal art-- Gond, Saura, Warli and Pithora. Originating in Madhya Pradesh, Gond paintings are drawn from the tradition of smearing mud pastes on the floor, walls and homes of Gond tribe to create motifs using a bamboo brush. In the early 80s, some of the Pardhan Gond painters started painting using bright colours to depict simple forms with dotted lines. One part of the exhibition reflected this style of art, portraying vibrantly-coloured birds and animals to showcase the joy that the Gonds experienced in putting their everyday life on a canvas.

That joi de vivre is palpable when one looks at Indu as she dwells over one of her
paintings to explain a wedding ritual in the Gond tribe, “Unlike cities, the groom’s family goes to the bride’s side to propose marriage to her parents. A home-brewed liquor plays a significant role in this process because only if the bride’s parents accept the mahua-bean drink, the groom’s proposal gets accepted.”

The other three styles comprised, Warli paintings from Maharashtra that are traditionally carried out as a fertility rite during marriage ceremonies; Saura paintings from Odisha that find origin in the religious beliefs, superstitions and ceremonial activities of the tribe to appease the demigods and spirits; and the Pithora paintings of the Rathwa and Naik tribes of Gujarat.

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