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Journalism of Courage

Brothers from Warli tribe to show local art at exhibition in Mumbai today

The experiences are captured in their paintings made in the distinctive Warli style which is art using white lines on a base made of cow dung.

Vayeda Brothers (Express photo)

Mayur and Tushar Vayeda used to travel for six hours everyday from their hometown in Palghar district to reach Mumbai to study there. Belonging to the Warli tribe of Ganjad village, their travel to their college showed them the “balance that existed between a traditional and modern life in India”.

The experiences are captured in their paintings made in the distinctive Warli style which is art using white lines on a base made of cow dung. The brothers, who have received much fame around the world via exhibitions at the Setouchi Triennale in Japan and the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, will be making their debut in Mumbai at Artisans’ Centre in Kala Ghoda today.

Detail from Emergence of Spirits (Express photo)

The painting, titled “Our City: Regenerating Hope”, presents a sustainable idea of progress. “This is the future of Mumbai. We are trying to show hope,” Mayur said. “Sea turbines co-exist with an abundance of marine fauna — a different reality from the several infrastructure projects that are currently destroying coastal ecosystems in the city. It’s a philosophy borrowed from the Warli way of life, central to which are sustainable farming, co-existence with nature, and the worship of nature deities,” he added

“The Warli are not far from Mumbai, but somehow people have lost touch with the city,” Mayur said. He added that the exhibition is being called “Regeneration” because it is the artists’ responsibility to preserve the knowledge that the Warli tribe offers. “We are trying to connect our ancestral knowledge to our art. We are losing this tradition, not just in cities, but also within our community.”

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Revolving around this in another painting called “Emergence of Spirits” in which a river flows across three panels, each depicting a season. The third panel depicts a ceremony called “khala cha dev”, where harvest is celebrated and “Kansari”, the goddess of seeds, is thanked.

Journey (Express photo)

“Warli painting is a language. We have a tradition of writing stories via paintings. There is a basic grammar to it, which we have seen since our childhood,” Mayur said. However, Warli art’s apparent simplicity has led to its rapid commercialisation, and few in this evolving community are keen to impart knowledge of this ancient art. Mayur and Tushar taught themselves to paint and like many others in their tribe, they also work as farmers and bee-keepers.

The Mumbai exhibition was initially planned in 2021, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is scheduled to run till January 22. The paintings, priced between Rs 12,000 and Rs 5,50,0000, evoke other aspects of Warli life as well — a “Bhagat” or “shaman” which means unstoppable rivers and natural deities. In “Birds”, the brothers have painted a flock of sacred white birds, called “aasra” which is meant to evoke the congregation “shaman” or the spirits of ancestors.

First published on: 07-01-2022 at 13:33 IST
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