'Words have their own burden but art is fluid'
Sometimes balance is as simple as finding your linchpin and I found it in art, especially folk and tribal art. Harmony between humans and nature is an important theme in all the folk arts worldwide. In Gond paintings too one finds this superior voice of nature.
Tikuli 16 May 2022 7:50 AM GMT
Loneliness leads you to unexpected places. Sometimes this journey of exploration is through words at others through colours, lines and curves that lead you to self discovery and healing.
When I couldn't put my thoughts into words, I painted. Words have their own burden but art is fluid. It satiated my thirst for both wonder and wander.
In the past few years, I began to experiment with various art forms and mediums. The more intricate the process the more effective tool it became to sort the stress and inner conflicts. Art is a meditative process for me. Just creating sometime brings profound healing and provides me with an inner stillness. Being self taught, I spend hours learning from all the sources available online, a daily riyaz, and this process of mind training has its own depth.
Sometimes balance is as simple as finding your linchpin and I found it in art, especially folk and tribal art. India has a rich tradition of indigenous art forms. The urge to recreate them led me to research about the different techniques, the tribes, and their cultural traditions. Whenever possible I tried to meet the artistes, learn about their struggles, get an insight into their lives so I could try and recreate that which comes naturally to them.
It is difficult for a person to bring to life something that isn't a part of their daily living so it's extremely important to imbibe symbolism and importance of motifs used in a particular folk/tribal art in the right way along with your own creative voice.
Though I am experimenting with different art forms my heart is set on Gond, the enchanting, mystical world it represents. I don't have formal training but I self learn from various resources.
Gonds have a fascinating history. It is the largest tribe of India, predominantly settled in Madhya Pradesh and pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
Harmony between humans and nature is an important theme in all the folk arts worldwide. In Gond paintings too one finds this superior voice of nature. A reminder we need in these times of mindless urbanisation and dwindling natural resources.
The paintings record the cultural history of the tribe and the natural surroundings that they consider sacred. Lines, dots, dashes, curves give uniqueness to this art. They create a sense of movement, like a music score, a river flowing, change of seasons, circle of life.
Traditionally natural colours were used on mud walls of the houses to create wall murals. This iconography done by Pradhan Gond women was known as Dighna. Later it became the foundation of the current form of Gond art.
The vibrantly coloured distinctive painting style that we see now was pioneered by Jangarh Singh Shyam a few decades ago. He converted the oral tradition of singing (bana) that recorded the tribe's legends, myths, fables, deities and childhood tales and the Dighna form of art into a visual narrative like no other.
The fact that a young man dared to go beyond the traditions to create what was never put on paper before fascinated me. It connected with my dreams, the fantastical stories I used to build up as a child, the worlds of Kipling and Ruskin Bond. It also fired my imagination as a storyteller and a poet. I felt belonged.
There's a seamless connection between the animate and inanimate, visible and invisible in Gond art. Unlike the other rural art traditions, in Gond art we see a lot of enchanted images that come from the surreal imagination of the artist. My fondness for Gond art isn't just to satiate my desire to create but also to preserve this child-like wonder.
Nature imagery in Gond art depicts the inclusiveness, co-existence and the symbiotic relationship between the people, their forest, and their gratitude for even the most mundane things that help sustain them.
When I paint I do it with this knowledge, reverence to the earth and all the living and non living things that play a role in our ecology and environment. I paint as a tribute to the tribe that knows the essence of conservation, the human-nature relationship and the rhythm of life. Nature is a great teacher if we are open to see and learn.
With every artwork shared I remind people to pause and look around, to witness the miracle that nature is and not just take it for granted, to observe the tree forms and their ecosystem, to become one with them.
I feel the indigenous art traditions, as visual media, are an extremely important source of creating awareness about the close association of humans with their regional natural flora and fauna.
Practicing Gond art has helped me reinvent myself. This is the purpose of art, to broaden your perspective and to revere life in all its forms.
Tikuli is a poet, artist, award winning blogger and internationally published author from Delhi. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry have appeared in print and in renowned online literary magazines. She's the author of three poetry collections. You may view her artworks and contact her on her Instagram /twitter account.