“Art is inspired by life, and life takes inspiration from art.”
There couldn’t be a more comprehensive summing up of the core emotion of Warli art. An art form that is driven by everyday life stories and these tales also in turn become a reminder of traditional values and cultures cherished by the tribe.
Warli painting is a form of tribal mural art created by the tribal people from the North Sahyadri Range in Maharashtra, India. The Warli Tribesmen and women are traditional storytellers; they follow the oral practice of passing down traditions, knowledge and culture. This oral tradition translates into beautifully painted elaborate tales on the wall of their houses, and other common areas of the community.
These visual canvases capture their daily rhythms in life; the forces of nature they worship, their simplistic belief systems, their laughter, regret, victories and tears. Without even saying a single word, an uncountable world of tales exists on the wall, some depicting everyday activities like fishing, hunting, cooking, harvesting etc, while some others more nuanced- teaching many lessons in life.
This one painted by the artist, Anita Balu Mhase for instance, depicts the story of the swarm of bees. There are many a teachings one can observe and take on from here like that of a symbiosis between the flowers and the honey bees and how each different variety of flower has an imprint on the honey formed, that of working together in unison to create something beautiful and lastly the strength of force of creation.
Or this one painted by the same artist depicts the well respected guru shishya relationship. The tree is represented as both the source as well as the propagator of knowledge. Master artisan Jivya Soma Mhase is depicted as the root of the tree, the very foundation from which the tree of knowledge takes its strength from and from the branches fruit of many an artists who continue to further spread knowledge.
Anita Balu Mhase, is the granddaughter of one of the greatest Warli artists to have ever existed, Jivya Soma Mhase. Bestowed with one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padamshree, his canvases were sought after internationally. Anita Balu Mhase has learned the art from the greatest artist himself. It is CCDF’s absolute privilege to have artists like her to be associated with us.
We at CCDF, for our flagship project ‘The Gondwana Art Project’ collaborate with traditional tribal artists based on an assessment of the quality of work and their current economic status. The artists are provided a stipend during the period of their residency with the organization and are guided and given mentorship as well. Mr Sundeep Bhandari, our founder, sees it as an opportunity of exploration of artistic creativity.
We only feel blessed that we have managed to get some of the greatest tribal artists of our times on board with us, there are so many stories that ache to be told, so many that we still need to lend an ear to.
“Our history is not written, it is drawn: we tell you stories, we tell you about our life.” Jivya Soma Mashe
This article is shared by Craft and Community Development Foundation and is authored by Shreya Seth.