Presentation on four tribal women artists at Indian Embassy Paris, France. April 20, 2014 – Posted in: Uncategorized

Presentation on Four Tribal Women Artists of Central India

In 2014 I was invited by the Indian Embassy in Paris to talk about the eminent women artists of central India.I picked out, two Gond , Durgabai Vyam , Nankhusia Shyam and two Bhil ,Bhuribai and Ladobai.I shared the their experiences and their journey from  their villages to Bhopal exactly the way it was narrated to me.
I would like to share some of their narrations here on my blog.
Durgabai discussed and narrated her childhood to me.As a child she would decorate the walls of their house with patterns made with coloured clay during festivals.Her mother taught her to use a stick which had a one of the ends tied with cloth as a brush.She listened to the stories and folklores that were passed from generation to generation. She came to Bhopal with her husband Subhash .Subhash is the brother of Nankhusia( Jangarhs wife)for medical treatment of her son .Durga got inspired by Jangarhs paintings and started experimenting on her own. .She often painted for days relentlessly .She was unsure of her creativity, it was Jangarh who saw her enthusiasm and encouraged her to develop her own style and exhibit at Bharat Bhavan.She says had it not been for Jangarh, she would have probably not gone ahead with this art.

Nankhusia talked about her marriage with Jangarh and the appalling poverty before they moved to Bhopal.Nankhusia got married at the age of 13years.She moved from Sanpuri the neighboring village to Patangarh. There was extreme poverty in their house. Very often both husband and wife would work as daily wage labourers breaking stone picking up sand.They also collected firewood and exchanged it for broken wheat when they had nothing to eat .
Painting on walls was done during festivals and occasions, it was a form of celebration and relaxation, it was not to earn money.
It was only after Jangarh moved to Bhopal their financial conditions improved. Nakhusia assisted Jangarh in painting , especially with the infill patterns. She was not very enthusiastic about art and painting. It was only after the tragic death of Jangarh in 2001 that she decided that she would start painting seriously .She developed the her present style of dots/pointillism.

Bhuribai belongs to the Bhil tribe, from Jhabua district that is in western M.P. She came as construction worker to work on site of the Bharat Bhavan.Her job was to pick up stones, mud and brick. The director of Bharat Bhavan  J.Swaminathan would speak to the construction workers asking them questions about their traditions , rituals, art and craft .Bhuribai was terrified of the bearded man who would often ask her to draw her traditional paintings..He used to offer her paper , brushes and colour and ask her to draw, bhuribai  used to flatly refuse. Finally after much persuasion she agreed to draw and that was the first time she held a brush in her hand . There has been no looking back after that. She gave up her menial job of a labourer and got into painting full time after she received the Shikar Samman in 1986.Bhuri narrated a interesting incident in her life.Whilst she was working as construction worker at Bharat Bhavan she visited her village and was very ill.She was taken to a shaman who tried to cure her.After a few days the shaman gave up hope  and declared her dead.She was then carried to burning pyre and the pyre lit.Someone in the family noticed her lips twitch and realised she was alive.That gave her a new life, brought back from the dead.

Ladoobai also a Bhil tribal came to Bhopal as a construction worker too to work on the building site of Bharat Bhavan. She would take care of her brothers baby 2 month old baby at the temple located near Bharat Bhavan.Whilst the baby slept she would draw her traditional motifs on the wall.J .Swaminathan was intrigued  with these charcoal sketches.He offered her paper colour brushes .Her brother advised her not talk to him.He warned her that J Swaminthan resembled a “Sadhu” a God man who would cast a spell on her.So for many days Swaminathanji tried persuading Lado to draw on paper one day she agreed and drew the tattoo”Ambis” mango shaped tattoo patterns on sheets of large brown paper provided .That was her initiation into the art form.


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