Indigo Arts presents a selection of contemporary paintings by members of minority tribes in India. The exhibit includes work by the members of the Gond and Bhil groups of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, as well as Mithila paintings from Bihar and Patua story-scroll paintings from West Bengal.
Artists include Gond painters Rajendra Shyam, Santosh Shyam, Anuj Tekam and Hiraman Urveti; Bhil painters Bhuri Bai and Anil Bariya, scroll painters Montu Chitrakar and Gurupada Chitrakar, and Mithila painters such as Pushpa Kumari and Baua Devi.
These distinct artistic traditions emanate from several different parts of India, and some have developed over many years, but they share several characteristics. They draw on the timeless myths, dreams and folklore of their creators, but they also reflect the daily life of the village. Three of them - the Gond, Bhil and Mithila paintings - developed out of the ancient traditions of house painting. Once painted by Bihari women only on the walls of the khobar or nuptial chamber, the mithila paintings are now rendered in ink and acrylic on paper and canvas and exhibited worldwide. It was a transition made of necessity, in the effort to bring handicraft income to villages devastated by the Bihar famine of the early 1960’s. First generation mithila artists such as Ganga Devi and Baua Devi, and today’s stars - Pushpa Kumar and Pradyumna Kumar, have gained wide renown.
The Gond and Bhil movements are more recent, dating from the “discovery” of a hut decorated by the seventeen-year-old Jangarh Singh Shyam in the Gond village of Patangarh in Madhya Pradesh. Brought to the city of Bhopal and given paints and paper, Jangarh had a meteoric rise as a painter but a sadly brief career. Since Jangarh’s suicide in 2001 many other Gond artists, including some of his relatives or students, have emerged. Gond and Bhil artists delight in the depiction of a world of wild beasts, both real and imaginary. Alien influences are refracted through the tribal eye, such as the airport scene of Bhil artist Bhuri Bai, and the morphed “tiger that dreamed it was an aeroplane” of Rajendra Shyam.
Other works, like the story scrolls of the Bengali patuas, convey narrative, from the Hindu myths of the Ramayana to current (sometimes distant) events, – the 9/11 attack, the 2004 Tsunami, and even the French revolution and the sinking of the Titanic. Patuas - painter/story-tellers, - such as Montu and Gurupada Chitrakar, sing their stories as they unreel the comic-strip-like scrolls, one window at a time. Both Montu and Gurupada Chitrakar are featured in the 2006 exhibit Village of Painters: Narrative Scrolls from West Bengal at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe and the accompanying catalog by Frank Korom.