At the David Hall, some of the best talent among tribals is on display. There are original works of the Gond, Kalamkari, Warli, Dokra, Madhubani and Pithora school of paintings.
The Pithora paintings are much more than colourful images on walls for the tribes of Rathwas, Bhilals, and Naykas of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, they signify the advent of an auspicious occasion, like weddings, childbirth, and festivals in the family or community. The essence of a Pithora painting lies in its earthiness; everything from the theme to the execution has the ethnicity of rural India. The materials used are quite exotic: the colours are prepared by mixing pigments with milk and liquor prepared from the auspicious Mahuda tree. The tribes of Rathwas, Bhils and Nayaks of central Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh practice this art. These are wall paintings. Initially, they are plastered with mud and cow dung by the unmarried girls of the household, and then coated with chalk powder. This process is called lipna. Thereafter, the painters proceed to do their work.
The other distinctive paintings are those of the Warlis. The Warlis are one of the largest tribes near the outskirts of Mumbai. The word ‘Warli’ comes from ‘warla’, which means a piece of land or a field. Despite living so close to Mumbai, the Warlis are not urban.
The art was first discovered in the early 1970s although it has been practiced from the 10th century AD. The paintings are the vivid expression of the daily and social events of the tribe. So, there are images of deities, human beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life. Usually, they are painted white on mud walls, and resemble pre-historic cave paintings. They show tribal members indulging in hunting, dancing, sowing, harvesting, going out, drawing water from well, drying clothes and dancing.
Another school of painting is Kalamkari. This literally means, Kalam - pen & kari - work, i.e., art work done using a pen. The artists use a bamboo or date palm stick, with a bundle of fine hair attached to a pointed end to serve as the brush or pen. Vegetable dyes are used on cloth to do the drawings. The dyes are obtained by extracting colours from the different parts of plants - roots, leaves, along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, and alum.
The subjects include themes from epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas. The unique thing about these painting is that no two panels are similar. Vegetable and mineral pigments are used to create these paintings. The Madhubani style of painting is practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar. The painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and
pigments, and is characterised by eye-catching geometrical patterns. The subjects include birth, marriage, Holi, Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony), and Durga Puja.
They depict men and their association with nature along with the scenes from the ancient epics. Natural objects like the sun, moon, and plants like tulsi are also painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings. Generally no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.
Not surprisingly the response has been good. “The aim is to promote, popularise and create a market for lesser-known art works and artists,” says Mridula Jose, Vice President, Product Development, CGH Earth Group, which runs the David Hall. “The works shown in this exhibition were created at camps conducted by us, where we have given a remuneration to the artists as well as supplied the canvas and art materials. The cost thus incurred exceeds more than 50 percent of the prices we have marked on the art works.”
Incidentally, most of the paintings are selling at Rs 5000 per piece.