NEW DELHI: Malo Devi and Putli Ganjoo from Harazaribagh in Jharkhand, till a few years ago, would decorate walls of their houses with floral and fauna designs. Today, they are spearheading the movement to spread the tribal arts of Sohrai and Khovar across the world and preserve it for the generations to come. The two middle-aged women recently painted a 4.1ft tall and 24.5ft long mural on the premises of The World Spa West, residential society in Gurugram.
The mural is an amalgamation of Khovar (done in black and white) and Sohrai (done in natural hues like rust and yellow), made in a span of 10 days. About the making process, Malo, 45, who learnt Khovar from her mother from age 10, says, “Pehle divar ko do coat maar ke kala kar dete hain aur phir usko sukhne dete hain. Phir dudhi maati ko, jo hum gaon se laaye hain, paani mein mila ke, chhan ke, usme fevicol mila ke, kanghi se gili dhudhi maati pe mor, hiran aur phul-patti banate hain (First, we double-coat the wall with black colour and let it dry. Then we mix white in colour, that we have got from the village, with water and fevicol, which is then strained. Then, using a comb, we make structures like peacock, deer, flowers and leaves).”
Khovar (marriage art) is a reverse split painting. While black manganese is used for black, kaolin makes for the white colour. Sohrai (harvest art), on the other hand, is done with brush. The geru obtained from iron oxide and yellow colour from ochre earth are used for highlighting elements. Explaining Sohrai, Putli, who like Malo in her 40s, says, “Isme hum peeli mitti ko gobar aur paani mein mila dete hain, aur upar se dudhi maati laga dete. Aur phir brush se sohrai banate hain (In this, we mix yellow earth with water and cow dung, and when it dries, we apply white earth on it. Post that, designs are made using brush).”
Justin Imam of Virasat Trust, who works with many such artists from Jharkhand, says, “My wife Alka supervised the work, and the event was initiated by Leenika Jacob from Kala Chaupal that promotes arts. Here, we have tried to depict the wilderness of Hazaribagh through birds, animals and other creatures in the painting. For the residents of the World Spa, it is a window into the world of these artists and natural colours.” Jacob, Managing Trustee of The Kala Chaupla Trust, aims to help many others like Putli and Malo. The intention behind this mural was to garner respect India’s cultural heritage. “We should take pride in our own history and the continuity of its existence,” she says. The trust is working with over 360 women from 13 villages and 10 tribal communities.
Imam says the women work from their homes, and they are given the proper reward for it. “Raw material is sourced from their vicinity and at times, we give them the material. Apart from nurturing the art tradition that’s facing the onslaught of urbanisation, we are trying to make people understand our values and culture with every project.”