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From hut walls to totes

The 1,200-year old Warli painting that decorates walls of tribals' huts in Ahmedabad villages, now adorns trendy handbags too.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2005 17:10 IST

The 1,200-year old Warli style of painting that decorates walls of tribals' huts in their villages along the south Gujarat-Maharashtra border now adorns trendy handbags in the city too.

The Warli paintings, so called after the Warli tribe spread over the Thane district of Maharashtra and the Valsad and Vyara areas of Gujarat, are traditionally done mainly with rice powder on mud-plastered walls.

The salient feature of Warli painting is that it depicts Warli gods like Panchora Dev, Vagh Dev and Palgut Devi, human figures and objects in geometric shapes that reminds one of old paintings found in the Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh.

"Traditionally, Warlis paint on hut walls showing their routine activities apart from gods and incidents from Warli folklore. Considered auspicious, paintings are done mainly during festivals and at the time of a marriage," said Shivram Gojra, a Warli painter.

"But now we paint on handbags, bed sheets, dress material and wall-cloths to sell it in the market," Gojra told IANS.

The artisan from Mundwali village of Thane in the neighboring Maharashtra state was in the city to participate in a fair organised by a rural development agency promoting handicrafts.

Common subjects in Warli paintings are thatched huts, women churning curd, pounding the rice, grinding corn, rocking cradle and sweeping, men working in the fields and similar quotidian scenes.

They are painted by using rice powder along with gulal, sindoor, kumkum and black ash. On bags and clothes, however, chemical colours have replaced the traditional material.

"Women generally paint on walls. But one Jiva Soma Masi transferred it to other objects and slowly we started painting on these things," said Gojra, indicating handbags and a heap of bed sheets lying in the corner of his temporary stall.

Meanwhile, training classes are organised in the district of Valsad to impart the skill of this ancient art among students other than Warli.

Kanil, 24, who belongs to the Gamit tribe and is from Vyara, learnt the art in the class and paints on handbags. He feels that this is also a good way to protect the otherwise vanishing art.

"These days, who can spare time to look after traditions, to see whether they are properly followed? And what's wrong if people can earn from their skill and at the same time keep their art alive?" asked Kanil.

The market, however, is not so favourable for this art and the government should put in more efforts to market the art, Gojra added.

"In our villages, there is no other source of income. Selling the art is a compulsion," he said.

--Indo-Asian News Service'


First Published: Dec 22, 2005 17:09 IST