FIFTY-YEAR-OLD Sundari Bai proudly flaunts the photo album that has captured one of the most beautiful moments of her life in the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. She got no formal school education, and yet has carved an identity as an artist.
From an inherited iconography, she has built a new vocabulary for contemporary narrative. She is one among the Rajwar women from Sarguja who are skilled in making clay sculptures and decorative panels.
She and her husband Kenduram are participating in the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Lok Kala Shivir (All-India Tribal Art Camp) at the Bharat Bhavan that got under way on Thursday. More than 20 artists including some from other states are participating in the camp, which is slated to conclude on February 20.
Anand Singh Shyam, the nephew of noted painter Jangan Singh Shyam, says, “It is very unfortunate that the tribal paintings of Madhya Pradesh are more popular outside the State. Besides Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, they are much sought after in foreign countries”.
Expressing happiness on the recent efforts made by the Vanya Prakashan to stage an exhibition on tribal paintings in Delhi, he said, “All my paintings were sold. This is a very positive indication not just for my paintings but also for the tribal paintings in general.
Most of the tribal painters, in particular the women, are illiterate but despite the socio-economic hiccups, this art has widened its reach over the years. The tribal art is promoted as a community, it entails benefit to the community as a whole not just any single individual”.
Shyam avers that the miniature paintings of Rajasthan are more popular in Madhya Pradesh than the local tribal paintings. “We are meeting here for an artistic exchange at Bharat Bhavan after a gap of almost a decade. Such type of meetings should be held at regular intervals”.
Yashoda Devi, who has come from Bihar, feels that any form of art should be promoted. “Such camps help in exchanging notes with other artists.
Besides the monetary aspects, they also hone our own skills”, she says while working on her Madhubani painting. Both age and a debilitative disease have not hampered her artistic spirit.