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Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India

Explore art rarely seen in North America!

Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India features the work of twenty-four contemporary artists from four major indigenous artistic traditions in India: the Gond and Warli communities of Central India, the Mithila region of Bihar, and the narrative scroll painters of West Bengal. Surrey Art Gallery is the only stop in Canada.

India’s rise as an Asian power on the global scene has attracted the world’s attention and interest in Indian art and life. The paintings in Many Visions, Many Versions are deeply rooted in traditional culture yet are vitally responsive to the world at large. The curators have organized them into four categories: Myth and Cosmology, Nature—Real and Imagined, Village Life, and Contemporary Explorations.

Gond Art

You’ll see fantastical renderings of animals, nature, and deities in the brightly coloured and highly detailed paintings made by a subgroup of the Gond tribe, the Pardhans. They traditionally paint on mud walls and floors during weddings and festivals.

Warli Art

Warli art is distinct in its use of only red/brown and white pigments, and by its triangular or hourglass-shaped figures to depict humans and animals. The figures gain movement by subtle alterations to their alignments, angles, and shapes. Wall paintings in Warli homes reveal ritual icons, religious beliefs, harvests, livelihood, and human relationships.

Mithila Paintings

Another group that has a vigorous wall painting tradition are the women in Mithila. Using vivid colours made from mineral pigments applied with simple bamboo and raw cotton brushes, the women create auspicious spaces for domestic rituals. Since the late 1990s, their themes have included powerful feminist critiques of patriarchy and gender inequality, as well as global events.

Bengali Patua Scrolls

The narrative scroll painters of eastern India are known as Chitrakar, meaning “one who makes images.” They travel from village to village, recounting stories and legends in song while unrolling patuas (long vertical scrolls) and pointing to the corresponding depiction of the events. Their scrolls reference mythological and religious themes, sociopolitical topics, and world events.

Artists: Anwar Chitrakar, Balu Jivya Mashe, Baua Devi, Bhajju Shyam, Bhuri Bai, Chano Devi, Gopal Saha, Jamuna Devi, Jangarh Singh Shyam, Japani Shyam, Jivya Soma Mashe, Kishore Sadashiv Mashe, Manisha Jha, Mayank Shyam, Montu Chitrakar, Rajendra Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti, Rani Jha, Santosh Kumar Das, Shanti Devi, Shivan Paswan, Sita Devi, Suresh Kumar Dhurve, Swarna Chitrakar, and Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

Curators: Drs. Aurogeeta Das and David Szanton with assistance from curating consultant Jeffrey Wechsler

The exhibition is organized by BINDU modern Gallery and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. The media sponsor is Red FM.

Image credits from top to bottom:

Jamuna Devi, Raja Salhesh with his two brothers and three flower maidens (c. 2000), natural dyes on paper. Photo courtesy of Sneha Ganguly.

Ram Singh Urveti, Woodpecker and the Ironsmith (2011), acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Sneha Ganguly.

Montu Chitrakar. Osama (2010), natural dyes on paper glued to fabric. Photo courtesy of Sneha Ganguly.