Collective consciousness

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 15 December 2017

An exhibition of tribal art work is currently underway at Darpan Art Gallery. Here’s more about the ethnic communities and their art.

What’s common to all the living creatures on the earth? The sun, the moon and the stars? The vivid patterns of life that thrive in nature? Definitely. This might perhaps sound prosaic to most of us; but the life of tribals revolves around these elements. Living a life away from the din and chaos of cities, tribals and villagers see the world around them in a different light and that’s what makes their traditional artworks so vibrant. 

A few specimens of this traditional art have been put up at Darpan Art Gallery, by Tribes India - A project of Tribal Co-operative Marketing and Development Federation of India (TRIFED), Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The exhibition-cum-sale of the paintings and artefacts is underway till December 19.

Speaking to us about the exhibits, D S Paunikar, senior assistant manager at TRIFED, says, “We have empanelled a few artists from each community — Gond, Bhill, Warli, Pithora etc — with TRIFED. We work closely with these artists and ensure that their work gets a market. So we hold exhibitions-cum-sale, demonstrations in different parts of the country.”

Taking us around the gallery, Paunikar explains the styles of various artist communities. “The Gond and Bhill paintings might look similar. But there’s one subtle difference. The Bhill artists like Bhura Devi and use dots in their art work. That’s how you can distinguish between a Gond and a Bhill painting. Traditionally, these artists have been using natural colours made from Palash trees seeds etc. Now Bhill artists use acrylic colours,” he adds.

Moving on to Saura art from Odisha, the official explains that the art is traditionally drawn on tussar silk. But keeping in mind the affordability factor, artists are also using paper. “This brings down the cost of the paintings drastically,” he points out. Also from Odisha is Pattachitra art, which depicts episodes from Lord Krishna’s life. 

Warli art from Thane district is also displayed here, along with its close cousin, Maurya art from Chhatisgarh. “Someone who takes a casual look at the art work wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two. Both the art works are done on a similar canvas, using white paint on red. But the figures in Maurya art are more broader while those in the Warli are taller,” informs Paunikar.

All the art works exhibited reflect the customs and rituals associated with the tribal way of life. For instance, the Pithora paintings from Gujarat have captured the bazaar life, marriage ceremony and also their deities referred to as Pithora and Pithori.

The exhibition has also given space to young artists who are training in the same line of work. Also, the government agency has roped in non-community artists to learn the age-old art, so that the tradition doesn’t die out. 

ST Reader Service 
Tribes India - A project of TRIFED has organised a tribal handicraft exhibition-cum-sale at Darpan Art Gallery, opposite Vikhe-Patil High School, off Senapati Bapat Road. 
The exhibition is open till December 19, 
11 am-8 pm,

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