Long before electronic food blenders and electric water pumps became must-haves in urban households, rural villages relied on cattle and functioned on manpower. Hyderabad-based D Venkatramana’s Cherial scroll painting (a version of Nakashi art created only in Cheriyal, Andhra Pradesh) narrates this reality he witnessed in his village Cherial, before moving to the city. Turbaned village men don colourful dhotis, and wear round ornaments across their necks, arms and legs. They direct a herd of cattle pulling water from a well, while women reap crops in an open green field. His brother D Pavan Kumar’s painting, interspersed with vivid rainbow colours, is based on a similar theme and showcases practises that have refused to die in his village, even today. As the women folk of his village grind rice in the traditional hand mills, another lady draws rangoli in front of her house, displaying his work, which is a sneak peak into the celebratory mood of their harvest festival, Pongal.
At the ongoing National Tribal Art Conclave in Delhi’s Lalit Kala Akademi, we watch these two artists working on paintings that depict the lives of farmers from their village. Bringing together 100 artists from the diverse tribal communities across the country, the conclave is an attempt at creating awareness on tribal art. As onlookers walk past these artists, their curious eyes trace the deft motion of their nimble fingers, while a few stop to sit beside them. They go on to ask questions and try their hand at learning the craft.
Right from the artistic traditions of Gond and Warli to that of Manjuli and Dhuri, the sculptures and paintings produced by the 100 artists will also be a part of the upcoming XIIth Triennale India’s National Pavilion.
Nineteen-year-old Dheeraj Rabha from the little-known Rabha tribe from Assam, sits on the ground while diligently working on his new painting using acrylic colours on canvas; his recently finished artwork placed next to it draws our attention. It took him five days to paint three priests dancing on fire, engulfed in smoke, against a jet black background.
The work depicts Khobha festival which is celebrated during the spring season. In this the priests are seen dancing to appease the gods and pray for good crops and protection of their cattle from diseases.
Tucked in another corner of the Akademi is 50-year-old Pandiram Mandavi from a small village in Bastar. Busy carving patterns from a log of wood as he sits above it, his work is an illustration of a woman carrying wooden sticks on her head as she walks through a jungle while little figures of turtles crawl in. This log provides an insight into the way of life led by the folks in his village, where his wooden posts, often end up being used in cremation continued…