Three-day workshop on tribal art opens at IGNOU


New Delhi : Ways to promote tribal art and carry forward the legacy were in focus at a three-day workshop on art forms of Bhil and Gond tribes in India which opened at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) here Monday.

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The workshop has interactive sessions on tribal art and culture along with an exhibition that displays work by five tribal artists — Bhuri Bai, Kala Bai, Nandkusia Shyam, Damu Thackre and Waharu Sonavani — at the Convention Centre of IGNOU’s B.R. Ambedkar Chair for Social Change and Development and the School of Performing and Visual Arts.

It was inaugurated by Vice-Chancellor of the University V.N. Rajshekharan Pillai in the presence of pro-vice-chancellor Parvin Sinclair, professor Vimal Thorat – the convenor of the workshop – and professor Gale Omvedt – head of the Ambedkar chair and an authority on Dalit studies and women’s movements in India.

Omvedt, who has an MA and Ph.D in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, was born in Minneapolis and has been living in India since 1978. She has been involved in several anti-caste and Dalit movements and has been an Indian citizen since 1983. She took charge of the Ambedkar chair at IGNOU in 2009.

The first session, Adivasi Art Culture and History, which was chaired by professor Joseph Bara, dwelt on the history, constraints and aesthetics of tribal art and culture, suggesting ways to “carry the legacy forward and promote it at an international level”.

It was followed by an interactive session with professor Omvedt, in which she answered questions on tribal art posed by more than 100 students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The Gond ethnic group, found in the remote areas of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, paint on the walls of their houses. This tribe, which according to history ruled till the 14th century before they were crushed by the Muslim armies, believe in a deity called the “bara deo” and several spirits and deities that personify natural features.

The Gond paintings reflect man’s relationship with nature and use natural symbols of flowers, trees and animals to convey their spiritual beliefs, lifestyles and close bonds with the land that they inhabit. Their wall frescos resemble Australian aboriginal art.

The Bhils of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are known for their wooden artefacts of their spirit gods, totemic art and pictograms.

The workshop will end Feb 17.