Thursday, August 5, 2010


Tribal art, whether Warli or Madhubani wall paintings, the brass wire-work animals of the Gods or leather embossing, the variety is bewildering. Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), in association with the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) has brought to the Royal City a fascinating exhibition-cum-workshop on indigenous art forms of the country's tribal and rural people. The exhibition ‘Tribal and Analogous Cultures’ is currently going on at the Wellington House and will conclude on August 12.

Some 50 different tribal and indigenous art and craft, commemorating the International Day of World’s Indigenous People, are on display here. The exhibition has a scholarly research component and a demonstration workshop (Anantha Yatre) that tells the visitor that tribal art is as sophisticated as modern ones. The expo will be open from 10 am to 6 pm.

To the cloistered urbanite, this exhibition makes a good introduction to indigenous people's cultures. To know more about the tribal art, SOM spent some time with some of the artisans. Here are the excerpts of the artisan-speak:

Golden embossing nakkashi work

Gold-embossed Nakkashi work is popularly known as 'Usta Art' and originates in Bikaner, Rajasthan. This unique fine miniature painting work is mainly done on camel hide. Thus you have camel hide bolsters, coffee tables, decorative dressing table mirror etc, including slippers. This work is also done on marble, wood and glass. It is said, this work was being done in ancient Iran. But similar works can also be seen in Multan (Pakistan) as well as north western India. This work is being kept alive in Bikaner by some 15 families.

Ayub Ali Usta received his training at Usta Camel Hide Training Centre, a unit of Rajsico, Bikaner. Nakkashi work is done on a variety of items — photo & mirror frames, jewellery box, glass bottles and table tops etc. They use gold foils and viscous oil colours like green, red, blue. Outlines are drawn in pencil and embossing and embellishing is done late. The fascination with leather as a medium started during the British rule when there was a demand for highly ornate saddles.

Traditional Gond Painting
Artist: Ajay Kumar Urveti, Dindori, Madhya Pradesh

Ajai Kumar Urveti is a Gond from Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh. Ajai's paintings are greatly influenced by the mythologies of his community. He has been participating in many artist camps in Bhopal and other places. His works have been displayed in museums and exhibitions. At the workshop, he painted the "traditional Bagesh," a marriage mantap among Gond tribes. According to Ajai, this painting is confined to 'Kushram clan' marriages. Gond paintings are the living expressions of tribals. They paint on grounds and walls with limestone or charcoal.

Surapur style of Painting
Artist: Jagannath Bellad, Gulbarga

Jagannath is a young painter who has made the 17th century Surapur traditional style of painting of North Karnataka. He graduated in fine arts from Gulbarga University and has held his solo and group exhibitions in a number of art galleries and has bagged many national and international awards including the Gold Star Award in Thailand.

Jagannath's paintings of gods and goddesses seem to float on the surface of the canvas unfettered by the colourful background. Tones of light and shades used on parts of the body add depth to the paintings.

Traditional Ornamental Design
Artist: Raghusurya Rao, Bobbili, Andhra Pradesh

Raghusurya Rao is a traditional metal worker from Bobbili, Andhra Pradesh, who makes embossed images of mythical characters, animals, famous personalities etc., along with charms and locket pendants. He has created more than 6,000 designs till now. He uses sheets of brass or gold on which images are embossed with iron-dyes.

Artist: Simhadri Kameswara Rao

Kameswara Rao is a traditional ornamental artist of AP who makes gold, silver, copper and brass metal ornaments. Basically it is an iron-dye work. He makes traditional jewellery meant for various occasions particularly birthdays, marriages, temple festivals and other social and religious purposes. Some of the common and most important ornaments in Andhra region are Mangalasutram, ear ornaments (Makara Kundanamulu), Simhakankanamlu, Kumkum Karinulu (Vermillion boxes), Jadagartalu and Vaddanamulu.

Kameswara Rao is the father of Raghusurya Rao and Prakash. The entire family follows this tradition.

In fact, in most of the cases, tribal art is a family occupation. Tribal society, as any other society, is as rigidly divided into several linear layers as modern societies. In a way, this has been the salvation of these ancient indigenous arts and crafts.

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