“I am a chef, a football player, I dance and I have worked in film-making. This is my identity. But above all, I am Warli. So, this is a culmination of all I am,” says 27-year-old Ankush Telawade, flashing his customised Warli painting tattoo on his arm.
Telawade was part of a team that started teaching tattoo art to the Warli painters in Palghar in 2018. The initiative, started by KBN Gholap Foundation as part of Jawhar tourism, is focused on taking the famous Warli painting a step forward.
“We started with temporary tattoos with the ink used by artists in Goa. A group of tourists got the tattoo designed on their body and that’s when we decided to work on making these artists into permanent tattoo artists,” says Vaibhav Gholap from the foundation.
Telawade, the father of a two-year-old girl, says, “I always wanted to do something different. Even though I wanted a tattoo, I wanted it to signify who I am.”
“Warli is an ancient art form and depicts who we were. To get a modern meaning into a design of the past is something different,” he adds. “Painting is a part of our culture. So many of our sacred rituals involve drawing on the walls. We paint on paper as kids, and cloth too,” says Abhijeet Bambare (27), a chemistry professor in a college in Jawhar.
Bambare is all set to learn the art of tattooing, once the workshop starts in a couple of months. “It was my student, who helped conceptualise the tattoo with Telawade. It is a an interesting concept,” he adds.
Telawade says Warli tattoo artists will add to the art form. “Art forms have survived over mediums in the past. We all have known about Warli paintings, it has been customised into clothing and other items. Why not tattoos? Designing miniature forms of these patterns is a challenging aspect,” he says.
The irregular power supply and distance from cities pose a challenge. “The machines need steady power supply, which can be an issue. We would have to trek to Nashik or Thane to get ink and needles,” Telawade says.