Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Warli art: A window to the ancient cave paintings of India

The name Warli art comes from the Warli tribe of Maharashtra, India. An indigenous tribe or adivasi community living in the mountainous and coastal regions of Maharashtra and Gujarat border. The reason for me to post this time about this tribe is because I painted a Warli mural on the training walls at my work place. I was drawn into the realm of ancient people who depicted what they saw around them in the form of cave paintings. Paintings that portray a window into the minds of our ancestors. An indirect glimpse into the daily life and culture of ancient people that still exist in minority in India, where it is still portrayed on the mud walls  of these tribal people. The Warli paintings have close resemblance to those done between 500 and 10,000 BCE in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, in Madhya Pradesh an archaeological World Heritage site.

For those who don't know what is a Warli painting or who are Warli tribe, here is quick intro (following excerpt below is taken from the Warli website)  - Warli art is a beautiful folk art of Maharashtra, traditionally created by the tribal women. Tribals are the Warli, Malkhar koli, Kathodi, Kokana, Dhodi tribes found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India. This art was first explored in the early seventies & from then it was named as “Warli art”.  Tribal people express themselves in vivid styles through paintings which they execute on the walls of their house. This was the only means of transmitting folklore to a populace not acquainted with the written word. Warli paintings were mainly done by the women folk. The most important aspect of the painting is that it does not depicts mythological characters or images of deities, but depict social life. Pictures of human beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life are created in a loose rhythmic pattern. Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls. The paintings are beautifully executed and resembles pre-historic cave paintings in execution and usually depict scenes of human figures engaged in activities like hunting, dancing, sowing and harvesting. A useful further reading on the Warli tribe, its history and place can be found here. 

Warli painting that I made was on a rough textured surface wall (ideally should be made on smooth surface), so was not an easy one in making clear circles, triangles or lines but was somehow possible. I used red oil paint to give the background and white oil paint to paint the Warli figures. In the first four Warli murals I have tried to depict the four areas the organisation that I am associated with (Grampari) are focused on - WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), Livelihood, Watershed, Governance and leadership respectively. The very bottom two Warli murals, I have tried to depict the village daily life that I am exposed to. It is interesting to note out here is that the traditional Warli painting is made by plastering the mud wall with cow dung, colouring the wall with red ochre colour and drawing the Warli figures with white pigment made of rice paste mixed with water and gelatin as a binding material. They use bamboo stick chewed at one end to make a simple paint brush. Isn't that really a natural drawing!!

I am novice and a tyro in this art form, but got all the inspiration from the people who have kept this art form alive and tons of material that already exist on the internet. Below are the Warli mural that I did, stretching for almost 9 and half days.... finally it is over!!! But I really enjoyed doing it and maybe in some ten thousand years from now will be an evidence of what was happening out here. :D 

Warli mural depicting tippytap program. (WASH) © R. Thomas
Warli mural depicting livelihood program. © R. Thomas
Warli mural depicting watershed program. © R. Thomas
Warli mural depicting leadership and governance program. © R. Thomas
Warli mural depicting village life and the wildlife surrounding the community.  © R. Thomas
Warli mural depicting Agrarian village life. © R. Thomas