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TBI Photo Essay: The Varied Hues of Indigenous Art in India
The Santals are among the largest and oldest adivasi (tribal) groups in the Indian subcontinent. Spread through Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh, they are known for their distinct language, music, art and totemistic rituals. Their belief in natural spirits and high regard for animals and birds is evident in their craft for which bamboo, wood, animal hide or metal is typically used.

TBI Photo Essay: The Varied Hues of Indigenous Art in India

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Elegant black stone pottery from Manipur. Karnataka’s intriguing Chittara paintings. The intricate weaves and stitches of Kashmir. These were some of the items on display and sale at the annual Craft Mela (fair) hosted by Kala Madhyam, a Bangalore based non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes traditional artisans and their work. This colourful fiesta was held at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, a reputed art and craft institution in the city.

It is a well known fact that human diversity is inherent in India apart from the differences in geography, ecology, flora, fauna et al. Our social and cultural variety is not only visible in the multiple languages spoken, the many faiths that are practised but also in the innumerable arts and crafts of the country. Artisans in each state or region of this vast land have been linked with their unique traditional paintings, sculpture, pottery, weaving, embroidery or printing. They have been producing these works from one or more materials like metal, wood, clay, bamboo, stone or thread for generations. It is important to note that the handiwork is often their only source of livelihood. Although the work does not fetch enough returns and the government does not support most of them through subsidies or incentives, they continue to practice their craft. This is because the knowledge is passed on to them through their family elders and they have been on the job from a young age. Further, they do not possess other skills. Of course, in some instances, the current young generation is seeking other opportunities and avenues for employment while assisting their families in the craft.

A look at some of the people and their lovely work:

Shimoga's Chittara art - Karnataka
Radha Sullur from Sagar taluk in Shimoga district of north western Karnataka has been involved in Chittara art from an early age. This young state awardee learnt the craft by observing and assisting the women in her family. Chittara art consists of drawings from rice paste made on bamboo trays, paper, mud walls, clay containers et al. The designs are sometimes coloured with a natural substance obtained by crushing specific seeds.

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