We were fortunate to come across these extraordinary artworks in the summer of 2005. Created in a workshop of patua, travelling scroll-painters in West Bengal, India, they graphically depict the terrible events of the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Organized by the Asian Heritage Foundation in India, the scrolls were produced and marketed as a means of raising funds for tsunami relief. Like the patachitra scrolls and paintings by Montu Chitrakar and others we show on the previous pages, these scrolls follow the conventions of an age-old narrative tradition. The scrolls are by various artists, all of whom by convention share the surname Chitrakar, meaning painter, whether actually related or not.
The Asian Heritage Foundation provides the following background:
"The Patuas, or travelling scroll painters and storytellers from West Bengal, india, have never been so far from home. Marginalized by television and film, these artists sing traditional tales from mythology and interpret contemporary events, improvising new lyrics. As travelling showmen they are complete artists: painters, scriptwriters, singers, performers, all in one. Painting stories on handmade scrolls called Pat, then setting them to music for rural audiences, the Patuas faced the predicament of many of our folk artists, who travl farther to earn less, often mass-produced their art, or take up other jobs in the hinterlands of modern industry...
The Patuas continue to explore the timeless and the transitional, commenting on how our worlds are being transformed for worse or better, telling fragments of our human predicament."