Saturday, 30 May 2020

Journey of artist of Gond art

What is that one thing that makes childhood so special? The obvious answer is tales and fables shared by our lovely grandparents. Every child grows up to a healthy dose of mythological stories. Durga Bai, a tribal artist from Madhya Pradesh has a similar childhood. She grew up not just listening to these local legends stories but would often paint them on walls and floors along with her mother.

Durga Bai - Tribal Artist from Madhya Pradesh

Hailing from a small village Burbaspur in Mandla district of MP, this Gond artist journey is truly one that inspires and motivates. The distinct feature of her work is that it’s a story told on canvas. Inspired by the Gond Pradhan community, Durga Bai grew up on a healthy dose of stories, narrated to her by her grandmother. She enjoyed listening to folktales and stories of locally worshipped deities.

As a young girl aged six, she would spend time with her mother painting the walls and floors of her house. She learnt the art of ‘digna’ style which is a traditional form of painting designs. Unlike the contemporary form of painting on canvas, the tribal art is a lot different. In her village, these painting were done to usher in celebrations like marriages, festivals and social gatherings. The walls of the house are first plastered with cow dung and then painted using colours.

Indian Folk And Tribal Art Painting by Famous Indian Artist 'Durga Bai'

Living in the village had its own share of challenges. In times of bad harvest when farmers would find it tough to feed the family, Durga grew with those hardships too. But it was her passion for painting that kept her strong. The walls of her house were canvas which she would paint and leave all the worries behind.

As she grew up, so did her art that transitioned from a novice to an expert. Her work started to get noticed. With her artistic prowess, she would narrate interesting tales and regale the art-loving audience. She began to be seen as artist-storyteller. The old folklores and myths got a voice and a form that was colourful and distinct.

It was her marriage to Subhash Vyam, an established artist in Bhopal that opened avenues in the art market in India for Durga Bai. Looking at her artistic skills, her brother-in-law encouraged her to paint and cultivate her skills. She first exhibited her work in Bharat Bhawan with one of her artwork being picked by an art collection. The painting that stole the collector from Chandigarh got her into the mainstream art world.

And then there was no looking back for this spirited artist who enthrals art lovers with interesting and intriguing tales. After her first exhibition in 1996 she then went on to participate in several art shows themed on tribal or Adivasi art.

Durga Bai’s works are usually themed around local goddesses. Like her work on Khero Mata, a deity was known to protect people all kinds of evil things and people. Then there is Maharalin Mata, a goddess worshiped for it protected the village against ghosts. She has even painted Chula Dev, the god that is prayed as it keeps the Chula (hearth) burning.  And there are many such interesting stories one would view on Durga Bai’s canvas.

Gond Tribal Art Painting by Contemporary Famous Indian Artist 'Durga Bai'

Chennai-based Tara Publishing invited her to workshop for illustrations in children’s book titled ‘The Night Life of Trees’. It was this work for which she was felicitated the prestigious BolognaRagazzi award in Italy in 2008 along with two other Gond artists.

Her story from a small rural village to ruling the contemporary art scene is nothing but inspiring. No one knew that his girl who would often spend time playing with colours would end up taking Gond tribal art at an international platform. Not relegating herself to the traditional forms, she took a bold step by artistically creating a perfect blend of Gond Tribal art with contemporary art.

Treating Gond art as a legacy she wishes to keep alive. Her three children who travel with her for all the art shows have inherited the skills for their mother. She is firm that this art shall live through and in her children she sees the flame of Gond art burning far and wide.

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