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Spirit of Tribal art - an exploration

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Aabira art is an organization engaged in promoting tribal and folk arts across the country. They closely work with the tribes of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. They provide painting material to the tribal artists and purchase their works.

Aabira Arts is exhibiting tribal artworks in Malaka Aart Gallery of Pune for two months. Romartika saw a curious aspect in this matter. Many artists in the circle of Romartika are experts of Tribal or Folk Art, but they are not tribes themselves. On the other hand, the artworks being exhibited by Aabira Arts are creations of the tribes. Romartika wanted the two worlds to cross their paths. Hence an event was organized to explore various nuances of the Tribal and Folk art.

Right from the beginning, the discussion gained momentum. Several aspects came up worth mulling over. Following are a few issues the group debated over.

Ms. Sonal V Saxena and Ms. Shweta Vetal spelt out her apprehension about restoring the sanctity of Tribal art in this age of commercialization. If the market demands a non-traditional element to be incorporated in their artform, will it still be able to hold onto its originality?

Others felt that market forces are part of nature, and such factors inevitably contribute to the evolution of any artform over the years. There is no point in resisting the same.

A fundamental question hung over the discussion all the time. If a tribal painting is done by a non-tribal artist form the town, can it still be called a piece of tribal art? When someone paints in the style of Gond or Warli, only the style is depicted on the canvas, not the spirit because such paintings are actually part of the rituals in the villages to invoke holy spirits. Some kind of magical element is believed to be held within them. If such images are created without the faith or belief, they may no longer retain their quintessential spirit.

Ms. Shubha Mansi made a very pertinent point that the underlying spirit of every initiative in this domain is to help each other. Even if there may be some aspect of evolution or dilution, yet the very goodness of mankind to help each other must be acknowledged.

In the end, Abiraa Arts was highly appreciated for their service in keeping the tribal arts alive. In absence of such promotion, tribal artforms restricted to remote villages of the country run the risk of extinction someday. Bringing them to light is of utmost necessity so that the ancient root of India is restored. Finally, it goes without saying that the ambience at Malaka Art Gallery was amazing for such vigorous discourse.

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