Meena Varma is out with a new online exhibition at India International Centre honours folk and tribal artists of India. The Delhi-based art gallerist and curator, delving into arts for 30 years now, talks about how life has changed for these artists after the pandemic, and how her gallery, Arts of the Earth, has supported the artworks of these creative individuals. Edited excerpts:
What led you to curate this exhibition?
Arts of the Earth is in its 11th year of existence, and was started with the sole purpose of promoting indigenous Indian arts and craft forms as there was very little exposure at the time for these artists and their work. I have organised many exhibitions at and outside the gallery space.
The intention of organising these exhibitions was to bring to the fore the various art and craft forms indigenous to the various states of India, such as Warli, Kalamkari, Bengal scroll paintings, mural paintings etc. People’s knowledge of folk and tribal art forms had been limited to Madhubani and Gond, and there was total ignorance about other genres.
What are the major highlights of this exhibition?
Mata ni Pachedi from Gujarat and the sculptures depicting the Theyyam tradition from Kerala are not commonly seen art forms, and are part of this show.
Who are the foremost contemporary folk and tribal artists in India?
The better known artists are Jivya Soma Mashe in the Warli tradition, Jangarh Shyam in the Gond tradition, Bhuri Bai in the Bhil tradition, Kalam Patua in the Kalighat tradition’, and Jaidev Bhagel in the Dhokra tradition.
Besides them, there are scores of other accomplished artists who have gone unnoticed. In the shows that I organise, the emphasis is on the quality of work rather than the name.
How has COVID-19 impacted the lives of artists, and what are the steps one can take to ensure their overall well-being?
COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on folk and tribal artists. As it is, artisans had very few platforms to showcase and sell their works and now, with the pandemic, even that has come to a standstill.
Fortunately, a few other galleries and also an auction house have taken an interest in folk and tribal art, and are putting in a lot of effort to promote their works. Hopefully, it will produce results.
It is also important to educate the younger generation about our art and craft forms and the easiest way to reach out to them is through platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.
TILL: December 20