On my recent trip I was introduced to a form of tribal art from India-Warli Painting.
While I was in the countryside in the state of Maharashtra I ran across this naive yet intricate art work painted on the walls of many of the local homes, schools and even the local police station. I came to find out it is a dying art by a tribe called the Warli’s.
Painted on canvas or directly on the sides of red clay buildings with white rice paste and using bamboo sticks to apply, these drawings tell the story of the everyday life of the Warli people. From farming to cooking and their devotional dances and worship, these stories are also a form of record keeping.
While I was there I met with Milund Nirgund, who is the head of the local hospital run and operated by the non for profit group called the Prasad Project. He’s been helping get the word out about Warli art in the hopes that this tribe could find both a means to save this art form as well as a way for the tribes people to earn money. He turned me onto Jivya Soma Mashe, the renown “grandfather” of Warli art and Johnny Magee, a UK based film maker who shot the wonderful short film in the video below.
While longer then most videos, it depicts the beauty of a simple life, and shows how the Warli tribe people and Jivya Soma Mashe live in India today.
When viewing a Warli painting, what strikes you is the movement and simplicity of forms. There are human beings, birds, animals, insects, the everyday activities of communities & Warli legends. These recurrent themes within the paintings are reflected through the film’s interwoven narrative which corresponds to the range of daily activities of farming, cooking, painting and dreaming. The film is presented as both a filmic rendering of Warli paintings as well as an expression of the landscapes & spirit which furnish their creation
Indian Art Consultant, Hervé Perdriolle, calls Warli art a “ritual art performance. In the short video below he explains how Warli art used to be the domain of the women of the tribe, collaboratively painted on the walls of their homes twice a year to celebrate harvest and weddings. In the 70’s when Jivya Soma began painting it became the domain of the men and also a daily practice, moving from the walls of a home onto canvas and shown around the world.
I am constantly amazed how through out my travels and my reading that while we are all different, we are never the less the same. We are record keepers and story tellers. I found the Warli art to be similar to the cave paintings I found on the Anasazi cave outside of Santa Fe, and the Aboriginal tribe drawings in Australia. Even the hierogliphics in Egypt do the same thing, each and everyone of them finding an art form to tell the story of their daily lives, and their worship of God.
I think Warli tribal art is not only a Little Bit of Beauty™ but a historical and sweet form of art which I hope will be preserved long into our future. What do you think?