On the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, ‘patachitra’ artists-cum-performers of West Bengal plan to pay their homage by painting chronological sequences of the poet’s life. As many as 100 families of scroll or ‘pat’ painters in the Pingla block of West Medinipur district are painting the poet’s life — since his birth in 1861 to his death in 1944. The artists, who narrate the stories that they paint through songs, have composed ditties to accompany their scrolls.
“It takes us three weeks on an average to paint a 15-foot scroll, depicting the life of Rabindranath Tagore,” veteran ‘pat’ artist Manimala Chitrakar said. Manimala and fellow-artist Rani Chitrakar are part of a group of seven painters, who are exhibiting their work in an exposition of regional and traditional art, “Vernacular, in The Contemporary,” at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon. The exhibition is curated by Annapurna Garimella of the Bangalore-based Jackfruit Research and Design.
“The Tagore scrolls are in demand,” Rani said. “I have sold three scrolls since January,” she added. Each scroll is priced R15,000. Rani and Manimala break into a song in a colloquial Bengali dialect spoken in the countryside of Medinipur as they unfurl their scroll. “We narrate the stories that we draw,” she explained.
The artists use natural colours made of leaves, wood, turmeric, spices and flower extracts and the pigments are made at home, Rani informed. Most of the Tagore scrolls follow a pattern. The lines are simple and the figures almost child-like in their flat uni-dimensional forms. The colour palettes are a vibrant combination of ochre, red, indigo, green and black.
Lekha Poddar, who owns the Devi Art Foundation with her son Anupam Poddar, said, “The artists are interpreting urban surroundings around them in their own way.”