Tribal wall paintings are drawn by the ethnic human tribes and have been carried across generations. The forms and types of paintings have been transforming through decades according to the changes in the life style, economic structure and their geographical areas of living. It also differs according to the tribal communities and the occasions during which the painting is done. But the ideas behind these art forms are almost same in every region.
WHEN ART MEETS LIFE
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Painted huts are mostly found in forested hill villages throughout the plateau. Both ‘Bandna’ and ‘Sohrai’ painting is done by various tribal communities to celebrate the harvest festival in autumn. Though similar in purpose and celebration time, the art form and style is very much differing from each other because of the geographical location and different life styles.
‘Bandna’ wall art by Santal tribe at a Santal village in Purulia, the lower part of the Chota Nagpur Plateau. In Purulia, the art form during the festival related to agriculture and harvest is known as ‘Bandna’ painting. The festival is celebrated to worship the cattle and its God ‘Pashupati’ to ensure the fertility of farming land and the subsequent harvest.
‘Sohrai’ painting by Kurmee tribe in Hazaribagh. The wall paintings done during the festival related to agriculture and harvest is known as ‘Sohrai’ painting in Hazaribag, the upper part of Chota Nagpur plateau.
‘Bandna’ painting by Santal tribe in Purulia. The minute details of the tribal wall paintings reflect day-to-day lives of the tribal society. It is a unique form of expression of life principles with basic themes such as agricultural, hunting and celebration. The distinct characteristic of this art is the use of geometric patterns for symbolizing thoughts, relations and activities with the physical things around human beings.
Generally tribal women decorate their huts by painting them using natural pigments mixed in mud. Artists also use cloth swabs or chewed twigs of the local ‘Saal’ forest tree as painting tools. A layer of wet cream coloured earth (Dudhi mitti) is painted over an undercoat of black earth and designs are cut with bits of combs or the fingers exposing black patterns on white.
‘Bandna’ painting by Santal tribe in Purulia. The main theme of tribal wall paintings is the life cycle of birth, marriage, farming, harvest. However, fertility is the common theme running through all these paintings.
‘Sohrai’ painting by Prajapati tribe in Hazaribagh. Traditional tribal wall paintings are usually done during various occasions related to agriculture and marriage. Paintings are generally done to appease the Gods and ancestors. These paintings are noted for their elegance, charm, iconography, aesthetic and ritualistic association.
‘Sohrai’ painting by Oraon tribe in Hazaribagh. As most the tribal societies in the upper region of the Chota Nagpur plateau are still habituated in hunting, various animal characters have been taking a major part in wall paintings in this region.
‘Bandna’ painting by Santal tribe in Purulia. In Purulia, the lower region of Chota Nagpur plateau, farming becomes the main livelihood than hunting. So the simplified forms of plants, flowers and cattle take major role as subjects in the wall paintings of this region.
A different from of ‘Bandna’ painting by Santal tribe in Purulia. However, fertility is the core idea running through all these paintings, but the life cycle of birth, marriage, farming, harvest also are the dominating subjects. According to the tribal people here the symbolic form of flower is used as a sign of breeding.
‘Bandna’ painting by Santal tribe in Purulia. Though similar in purpose and celebration time, the art form and style is very much differing from each other because of the geographical location and different life styles.
‘Khovar’ painting is done during marriage by many tribal communities in Hazaribagh. The painting is done by the women, considered to be good luck painting in honour of newly married couples. Walls of the houses, particularly of the bridal chamber are painted.
In ‘Khovar’ painting, a layer of wet cream coloured earth (Dudhi mitti) is painted over an undercoat of black earth and designs are cut with bits of combs or the fingers exposing black patterns on white. This painting also has fertility symbols celebrating union and breeding.
Various forms of flower is used in the ‘Bandna’ painting as a symbol of fertility in the ‘Manbhum’ region, the lower part of the Chota Nagpur plateau.
A traditionally painted courtyard of a tribal house during ‘Bandna’ festival in Purulia. Locally this art form is known as ‘Chaitpura’.
Usually tribal women paint the courtyard of their houses during ‘Bandna’ festival. A semi-liquid made by a particular kind of white colour mudl mixed with some natural glues is used as medium. The medium is then skillfully spread by using four fingers (mostly similar to airbrushing) in a specific traditional form.
A skillfully painted courtyard of a tribal home in Purulia. This is how the traditional art form has a bold relation with the daily life of people here.
Some Santal villages have tradition to decorate their house with relief wall art during ‘Bandna’ festival in Purulia.
Though these art forms of Chota Nagpur plateau show enormous skill, conveying intense socio-economic situation, faith and rituals in daily life of tribal communities, nowadays it is struggling to survive. With the increasing effects of urbanization and reluctance nature in the younger generation to retain their traditional culture, there are only a handful of villages left where people still paint their houses.
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Exhibition : 

“When Art Meets Life” was exhibited by Pondy Art in Pondicherry. Exhibition duration – 5th May, 2017 to 5th June, 2017