Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tattoo Art of the Baiga tribe.

About the Baiga

Baiga tribe of central India is one of the most primitive tribe of India. The Baiga tribes used to practice shifting cultivation in forest areas without using the plough.They used to have a semi-nomadic life style till the advent of Britishers and started living in more permanent settlements.They live in simple houses with hardly any  adornment. Their houses generally consist of a single room and there is a Parchhi adjoining it in the front. There is a courtyard in front of the Parchhi, a hedge of sachcher woods is created around the house which they call Parda.
Tattooing is an integral part of their lifestyle is the Baiga tribe.The body of a Baiga women is extensively tattooed. There is a specific tattoo for every part and the tattooing is done by people of Badi-Badanin community.Their principal dance forms are Baigani, Karma, Saila, Bilama, Parghauni, Fag, Jharpat, Gendi etc. 

Tattooing amongst Baigas


The art of tattooing is extensively prevalent amongst the Baigas.It is one of the many tribes  in which the women’s body is almost completely tattooed .There are lot of myths and folklores on the origin of tattoos.The female of the Badi tribe(Badnin) does the tattooing for the Baiga women (Baigin) One such folklore narrates the story of creation of the    ‘ Badi and Badnin’. Lord Indra the lord of universe was furious with other Gods and refused to send rain to earth. The earth was getting parched quickly, and would face a huge famine soon. Lord Shiva and Parvati got very concerned and requested Naga Baiga and Naga Baigin to persuade Lord Indra to shower rain on earth. The female Baigin did not possess any ornaments ,she needed to look her very best to meet the Lord.Hence Lord Shiva and Parvati created the Badi and Badnin .The Badnin were given the task of  decorating the body to the Baigin with tattoos.
The Baigas believe that the pain the Baigin(woman ) endures during tattooing  prepares her for labour pain during child birth, that the tattoo is their identity mark(Different tribes have their specific tattooing patterns).Tattoos are only ornaments that will go with them to heaven when they die.The tattoo patterns usually signify fire, crops, grains, peacocks(amba), pair of hens, chariot, flowers, trees , eyes etc.

Tattoo patterns rear portion of body

Tattoo patterns for Baiga women(full body)
Shantibai and Mangalabai with the tattoo paintings.

Tattoo patterns for upper half, Motifs used are bee hive motif, bulls eyes, Jhela(jewelry piece)



Tattoo patterns upper back.

Tattoo patterns back of legs

Tattoo patterns front legs
Tattoo patterns Arms

Artist Shantibai

Shantibai of  Lalpur, is an accomplished tattooist, and belongs to a sub sect of the Baiga tribe ‘Badi’.The Baigas are known for their traditional body decoration.The women tattooist are called “Badnin”.Shantibai is a Badnin and has inherited this art from her forefathers. She draws inspiration from religious motifs and mythological stories prevalent amongst Gonds and Baigas.Her daughters Mangala , Jamni and mEena bai are taking this  dying art forward.
verse was furious with other Gods and refused to send rain to earth. The earth was getting parched quickly, and would face a huge famine soon. Lord Shiva and Parvati got very concerned and requested Naga Baiga and Naga Baigin to persuade Lord Indra to shower rain on earth. The female Baigin did not possess any ornaments ,she needed to look her very best to meet the Lord.Hence Lord Shiva and Parvati created the Badi and Badnin .The Badnin were given the task of  decorating the body to the Baigin with tattoos.

The Baigas believe that the pain the Baigin(woman ) endures during tattooing  prepares her for labour pain during child birth, that the tattoo is their identity mark(Different tribes have their specific tattooing patterns).Tattoos are only ornaments that will go with them to heaven when they die.
The tattoo patterns usually signify fire, crops, grains, peacocks(amba), pair of hens, chariot, flowers, trees , eyes etc.Motifs signifying jewelry are also used.
Needles used for tatoos

Needles used for tatoos









Monday, June 1, 2015

Warli tribe artists in Lyon ,France

Warli Artists In Lyon in May 2015
"Duppata " is a NGO based in south of France that works for women empowerment in India.They have  exhibitions annually of tribal and folk paintings of India  at various locations in France.Artists from the Warli tribe from Maharashtra were invited for series of exhibitions that extended from 1st May 2014 to 31st May 2014.The artists invited were Reena Valvi, Shantaram Tumbda and Anil Vangad.All these artists hail from different parts of Dahanu district located north of Mumbai.My love for Indian folk and tribal art perhaps got me an invitation to visit France again.
Since my Marathi is fluent and I can speak some broken phrases in French I was invited to accompany these artists as a co-ordinator and translator.

Reena Anil and Shantaram at Mumbai airport

Our trip started in Mumbai , we flew to Paris.All artists were a wreck of nerves except Anil, who had been to the United Sates of America previously.Reena did not feel too well, and was breathless in the air-conditioned aircraft.In Paris we got on the TGV a marvellous wonder.Shantaram wondered why the train had a snout that reminded him of fish, he decided probably all the trains in this strange land looked that.

                                                            Outside the TGV in Lyon

After a long flight and 2 hour train journey we reached Lyon at about six in evening and were  ravenous.The only food available at that hour were crepes. Reena ordered a chicken salami crepe and was aghast to see it.She had not imagined it to look like that.She almost thought that she she was being fed raw meat.By evening we taken to a little beautiful chateau which was going to our home for next one month.
The event comprised of series of demonstrations and exhibitions by the Warli artists at different locations in Lyon.Bookstores, art galleries were main venues for the displays.Apart from this , the artists also did wall paintings in peoples homes in Lyon.

                                 Shantaram and Reena at the first demonstration at a bookshop in Lyon

I had co authored a children's book in French based on a Gond folklore with Gond illustrations.The translation  from english to french was done by Barbara Pillot .The book was officially launched in Lyon at a bookstore.
                                                     My first customer to sign a dedicace
Another important event was at Eveux, Lyon .It was an demonstration and exhibition organised by another NGO called La Sims.The programme culminated in a dinner . This was the first official dinner attended by the artists and obviously they had no idea about the French table etiquettes . as soon as we sat down for dinner Shantaram picked up a bottle of red wine that was closest to him and  topped his and Anil's glass to the brim much to the distaste of the French. According to the French tradition the glass of wine is never filled up to the brim only half glass is filled.Whereas in the Indian traditions filling up the glass up to the brim is the done thing.

 In discussion with the president of La Sims and president of Duppata, Reena and Shantaram

                                                 Shantaram dons a Indian mask in Eveux


                                        To be continued..........

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book launch of children's book 'L'Elephant Volant'(french)

Book launch of childrens book 'L'elephant Volant'

The idea to make a childrens book based on this Gond Folklore happened in 2013 when I was in Paris for the presentation for "Verncular India" hosted by Gallerie Andershus Paris.Barbara Pillot the co author and Gayantri Shantaram both ardent lovers of folklores and tribal art were mesmerized by the beautiful paintings .Barbara having previous experience in translating children's books from various languages into French was keen to do a book based on the famous Gond folklore" Udata Hathi"(Flying elephant).
We started looking for an artist who would appropriately illustrate the story.After much discussions we decided on Rajendra Shyam who had aptly depicted this folklore in many of his paintings.
With the help of Gayatri , Barbara and myself were able to bring out the real essence of the story in the French language.Barbara prepared the manuscript for the book .Looking for a French publisher was a difficult task.The book was finally accepted and published by Jasmine Du editions Paris, France. In this incredibly illustrated book , Raju (Rajendra Shyam) has depicted the domestication of the elephant by humans .

About the Illustrator

Rajendra Shyam, depicts the Gondi tales in great detail on his canvases. His favourite colour is brown in all its shades. He has adopted banda, the rope used to bind sheaves of grain, as his signature infill motiff to provide texture to his forms.
Rajendra  has exhibited his work at Nottingham’s  New Art Exchange Gallery, London in 2009.Raju in collaboration with Venkant Shyam also painted a 70kg fiberglass elephant, Udata Hathi as a part of the Elephant Parade Mela.His  depictions of tales of deity Bada Dev have been exhibitited  at Horniman Art Gallery London in June 2011.


L'elephant Volant



































                                         The Book launch in Lyon,France






                                                     Udata Hathi(Flying Elephant English version)

According to Gondi folklore, the winged elephant (Udata Hathi) was used by Gods and Goddesses in heaven, to transport them from place to place. One day, when the Lord was resting he told the elephant to take a break. The elephant decided to fly to the earth. Upon reaching the earth, he was delighted to find fields of sugarcane and banana trees. As soon as he started eating the sugarcane the villagers came and tried to scare him off. But the elephant would not move. The villagers then called the Lord and asked him to intervene. The Lord was displeased with the Elephant and asked him never to go to earth again.
A few days later, the Elephant went back to Earth to eat the sugarcane, he had loved the lush forests and the bananas. The villagers were upset, they asked the Lord to help .The Lord was furious and told the villagers to organize a feast and the Elephant was invited to join the revelry too.  After enjoying a hearty meal and the Mahua wine the elephant fell asleep. Whilst he was asleep, the Lord cut off his wings .He gave one to the Banana tree and one to the Peacock. From that day the Peacock has a beautiful Plumage and the Banana tree has large leaves The elephant was relieved of his duties for the Lord and remained on earth ever after to be domesticated by human beings.