Indian Folk and Tribal Art

The Art section of August Accents presents a rich spectrum of Indian folk and tribal style paintings among other things. Here is some interesting information on these fascinating styles.  

Background  

India portrays a phenomenal cultural and traditional vibrancy through arts and crafts. The 35 states and union territories that sprawl across the country abundantly showcase their distinctive identities through folk and tribal art.  Simple but colorfully ethnic and deeply expressive, these arts speak volumes of the country’s rich cultural heritage. How were these arts born? The search highlights some supremely interesting facts.  

Origins  

Like dance, theater, music and weaving, the art of painting too originated in the folk culture of India. Some styles date back to the 16th or 17th century; and they are alive until today after passing from the hands of many generations, providing livelihood to many. It is sheer fascinating how the skills managed to travel down to next generations in absence of any formal training or documentation! Unique and varied, they keep evolving over decades, some preserving their originality through the winds of modernization while others adapting to the contemporary concepts.   

India saw changing dynasties and empires historically; and spirituality was the only common tool for holding the masses together through the political and social unrests. Centuries ago, like performing arts of dance and music, pictorial arts depicted the morals of the epic myths and religious tales to village folks through drawing and painting. Story-telling is an art, and this was an alternative way to tell the stories about religion. Folks effectively used symbols and motifs from local culture to convey a message. Most arts portrayed the ultimate supremacy of God, preaching the sentiment of worship and surrender.  

Materials and Symbolism  

Besides paper paintings, the media have included canvas, mud and plastered walls, cotton and silk, sheets made by weaving palm and bamboo strands and metal. And other arts have included weaving, fabric painting, pottery, jewelry-making and garments. The symbolism in 2-D arts is quite fascinating with the motifs of deities, flowers, leaves, birds and animals like peacocks and parrots, pictures and symbols from the courtly life, chariots, temples peaks and more. Owing to the varied climates and geographies from east to west and north to south, the artistic depictions traditionally have used local resources like plants, mud or charcoal to make dyes and colors. The popular arts like Madhubani (Bihar), Warli (Maharashtra), Bastar and Gond (Madhya Pradesh), Bandhani (Gujrat), Patta-Chitra (Odisha), Nirmal (Andhra Pradesh) have in fact triggered tourism with people treating these as the Go-To places in India to explore the making of these arts.    

 

Current Context  

These arts, though powerful in their symbolism and expression were hidden in the Indian nooks of India until recently. Happily, the world is noticing them now, their tradition, aesthetic sense and authenticity meeting the connoisseur eye. Many designers and fashion houses are adopting them for their contemporary creations. The evolution is apparent.  

              

Watch this space periodically for much more information on the arts of India and arts around the world. 


Anuja Palsule

Each one of us has a story, and so do I! The story of August Accents reveals as a natural extension of my academic and professional life as a designer.