Two Rajasthani artisans spread coronavirus awareness through centuries-old style of painting

Anugraha Rao
Thursday, 9 April 2020

Very recently, two Shahpura Phad painting artists and brothers -- Vijay and Vivek Joshi, started spreading awareness about the coronavirus pandemic through their paintings.

Rajasthan, a state known for its rich culture and heritage, has many artisans living in its small villages. While the state is famous for its paintings and handicraft, the new generation is losing touch with some of its ancient art forms, lament the older artists. A few of them have taken it upon themselves to sustain their culture by following and adding new trends in their art. 

Very recently, two Shahpura Phad painting artists and brothers -- Vijay and Vivek Joshi, started spreading awareness about the coronavirus pandemic through their paintings.

“Phad means reading out. The original concept was to read out or sing the story drawn in the picture, to the people. Earlier, there were not many sources of entertainment like we have now. So people from the Bhopa community used to dance, sing and tell these stories to their audience. This was also their source of living,” informs Vijay.

Shahpura Phad painting has been a family art for more than 700 years now. The duo learnt it from their father, Shanti Lal Joshi. Their ancestors used to make Panchang (Hindu Calendar). However, the Bhopa community approached them to illustrate their stories on canvas, and that’s how the art form developed. It is also known as Shahpura school. The art has received acknowledgement and appreciation on a national and international level.

Recently, after the outbreak of the coronavirus, Joshi brothers made a four-feet long painting capturing all the events associated with it in India. The painting shows the outbreak, people getting sick, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lockdown speech, quarantine, exercise, precautions, and so on.

“Visuals are one of the strongest means of communication. It gets a lot easier to understand anything when you see it. Hence, we thought of depicting the beginning of the pandemic, infected people, India fighting against Corona, PM Modi’s speech, precautions to take, etc., in the form of a story,” says Vijay. The artists also got requests from many organisers to showcase their artwork in competitions.

Vijay keeps updating his subjects according to the changing times and as per the interest of the new generation. The duo has also worked on social topics, mythological and historical stories and non-fiction. 

What makes this art form unique is that the artisans paint out the life history of a person, legend or a character. The painting consists of both English and Hindi calligraphy, based on the requirement.

The artists have prepared brushes, canvas, and colours. “The canvas is made of khadi cloth. We put arrowroot and all-purpose flour to the cloth, making it ready for the painting. We make our own colours by crushing natural stones. We also customise our brushes as needed,” tells Joshi.

Speaking about the limited number of existing art forms, he says that many of them are getting lost. “One reason could be that it takes a lot of labour work which makes them a little expensive. People nowadays do not want to buy anything expensive. Hence, artisans are shifting their focus to regular jobs. We, on the other hand, make sure to pass on this art form to the next generation,” he says.

In December 2019, Joshi exhibited his 25 paintings in Guadalajara, Mexico which will continue till the mid of this year. The paintings present mythological events.

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