Indian artists are widely recognised and appreciated for their art. Not just the likes of M.F Hussain and Tagore but also the humble tribal artisans that give the western world a peek into the world of outsider art of the east. The tribal art typically carries the cultures, stories and struggles of rural and indigenous tribes many of whom have inspired and greatly influenced the concept of modern art. But even in the tribal art some art forms are more widely known and recognised while few remain largely unnoticed.
The colours for Oraon paintings are drawn from Charcoal, red clay, green leaves and wildflowers. These vibrant paintings from Chhattisgarh were originally meant to adorn the walls and floors of tribal households and temples during auspicious occasions. This art was later transferred on canvas, pots, jewellery and sarees too to expand its reach.
The art of Godna was actually inspired from Madhubani paintings of Bihar and Jharkhand which were primarily the domain of higher class women in the olden days. Women who were previously tattoo artists took up painting to spread this form of art further than Godna/ tattooing which was slowly being replaced by advanced and sterilized tattoo machines. The hues used in this art form are the same ink that was earlier used for permanent tattooing which makes the colours on the fabric permanent and the patterns remain intact even after repeated machine washing.
Almost everyone in Nungbi Khullen, Manipur knows how to make black stone pottery, an art that is unique to this village. The serpentine rock and clay used to make these pots are found only in Khullen. Stone pots are not made on the potter’s wheel but handmade with tools and fire without any chemicals or modern equipment. These pots remain exceptionally hot even after taking off heat which saves fuel and helps the food remain warm for long durations. This pottery was also referred to as Royal Pottery at one time since only the rich and noble families of Manipur could afford them.
These art forms may be a rage in the international market due to their exoticness, however, closer home, we are yet to see the same passion for what forms an integral part of our rich heritage. The aesthetic that appeals to westerners that is the ethnic simplicity and authenticity finds fewer audiences because it fails to evoke the sense of responsibility towards our dying heritage and the historical value of such art forms. The younger generation is losing connection with our traditional storytelling and expressionism which is the basis of our art. The major reason that may have contributed to the current scenario is the lack of proper documentation and awareness of the forms of tribal and rural art and craft amongst the youngsters.
The silver lining, however, is the recent efforts made by the central and state government and private organizations like Tata Steel to protect, promote and conserve the tribal art and craft.
(The pictures used in this article were taken at the rural art and craft exhibition held in Jamshedpur in the year 2017 by the Department of Rural welfare of Tata Steel)