Under The Tree Sits The Kasturi

August 8, 2019
Gond Art

The world of Indian tribal art is filled with stories galore of many social scientists trying ways and means to make society aware of the numerous indigenous dying art forms. Tribals are leaving their natural habitat to find lucrative offers in cities for newer forms of employment. Sadly, along with the development, families give up the traditional art forms that are intrinsic to their daily lives. And we lose a slice of culture of India. What remains of this shift are tribals garnering tremendous amounts of bravery to continue in spite of the odds.

Over my writing work since the last few months I have come across many artists in exhibitions who lament the death of their art. I have felt utterly sad and helpless watching them sell their art for free and feeling lesser as people in cities, where the well-heeled artists are given more chances.

I met Avipsha via a common friend from Delhi – Chinna Dua. Avipsha was travelling to Bangalore from Delhi and Chinna in her own inimitable style connected us both. Avipsha and I decided to meet at a café and share our common story of charting a new career, leaving a lucrative salary for creative satisfaction. She told me about the saris she creates with weavers across India and produces designs that are unique in its sensibility.

Avipsha and me had a lot in common. Our middle-class Bengali upbringing and the movement to larger cities maneuvering hill innocence with city smartness, many wont know, but it is a feat. You learn new methods to the madness of the rushing bus and the crazy anatomy of a large city that is so willing to swallow you in its belly. The city is unthinking of how you would come out of that staggering cesspool of lies and deception and the unleashed hunger of money, power, games and everything that is measured with the visible success of you and your possessions.

No wonder then, the tribal artists from hinterland India, where the clock is the crowing of the cock in the mornings and the village lights coming on in the evenings, where all falls deathly silent is quite a struggle for the tribal artists. In larger cities if they wish to showcase their art, they have to deal with a middleman who will help them reach a buyer who in turn may sell it to another buyer. At the end of this exchange the tribal artist gets extremely little for all the natural pigments they have made meticulously with so much grit and with a whole lot of love, the art doesn’t get its due for the art they create. But they accept this as a natural process to progress.

Both Avipsha & I spoke at length about these little things that make us cry and bleed. I insisted on seeing her collection on her phone photos. I fell in love with a black silk sari with Gond art on its palla and the border.

She told me it was a special sari. The couple were together in trying to recreate and continue this form of Gond art on fabrics. My sari had the deer resting below a Mahua tree. I fell in love with the picturesque quality of the painting done on my sari. It was all black like a moonless night with a huge Gond art of nature as the Tribal artist saw from their window on a night of love and longing.

Gond artists are from Madhya Pradesh and they create paintings on fabrics with nature being the main theme of expression of their art.

I wore the black sari on a moonless night where I heard the howling of the creatures that were chained forever in their hearts and souls. Just like the deer whose limpid eyes is snug in the presence of a loved one while sitting and watching the sky above, I know I will meet my soul on a moonless evening where the awareness of knowing that detachment is the greatest form of evolution, my mind will become one with the deer on my sari. Knowing danger lurks in the unknown but what a shame it would be to not sit still by the river bed on a dark night and let life take its course and face danger in its face while something changes within you as you face your fear obliviously with the luminous moon shining brightly on your face and heart.

Avipsha’s creation will remain one of my favourites among the many in my cupboard of saris.

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