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VISUAL ARTS : BEACONSFIELD PS
TRIBAL ARTS OF INDIA
(Installed Oct 2001)
MADHUBANI WALL ART FROM BIHAR
(also known as MITHILA painting as Madhubani is a village in the locality of Mithila near the border of Nepal)
By Year 6
Centuries old, this art is done mainly by the females of the family, and is a part of the daily ritual.
It is believed that every morning the gods come invisibly to the household to bless the members of the family and to bring more prosperity. So this art started as a daily welcome painting for the Gods by decorating the outside of the house, the walls or the floor.
The walls and floors of the house were coated with cow dung and mud paste. When it dried it gave a perfect dark background to the bright paintings done with white rice paste. The diluted cow dung is also a natural antiseptic which is why it is valued as a floor and wall covering anyway - regardless of whether any one was going to paint on it!
During the Bihar famine of 1964-65 some of these women began to reproduce their pictures on handmade paper as their art work was being noticed by the urban people and the painted walls could not be moved to their living room. In this way, the Madhubani people with help from the All-India Handicrafts Board, have managed to supplement their income by providing a desired product. It is a real life Technology and Enterprise project.
To give the same effect to the paper, the artists still coat the handmade paper with a thin layer of diluted cow dung. This helps in the absorption of colours as well as gives the desired shades of colours.
Even in the more recent work on paper, the themes are normally the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and stories from Hindu mythology.
Initially all vegetable dyes were used for the paintings but today with the changes over time and because of the easy availability many artists now use acrylic colours as well.
The figures are recognizable by a face in profile while the rest of the body faces the front.
The face has one very large eye and a bumpy sort of nose coming out of the forehead.
The figure outlines are drawn as a double line with diagonal hatching between them.
The borders are highly decorated - either geometrically or with ornate floral patterns.
Clothing also is highly decorated with geometrical, floral or even animal patterns.
The drawings of animals are easily recognised for what they are, but again tend to be very stylized.
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At the Craft Museum in New Delhi, a variety of crafts people are invited for 15 days at a time to come and work in the grounds of the museum so that visitors can watch, ask questions and of course buy their products at a very reasonable price. In this way the visitor is able to experience Tribal Arts from a variety of regions which they would otherwise not be able to visit.
As Devjani was able to speak Bengali, she asked many questions on my behalf about the dyes used to colour the work. (see below)
The Museum was a highlight of my time in New Delhi. (Pauline O'Brien - TiCFA tour participant to India in January 2001)
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The Museum also has many wonderful permanent displays.
This is an example of a full size Madhubani Wall Painting as it would have been done in the bridal chamber prior to the marriage ceremony. The natural colours were amazingly bright.
"I was glad I was able to buy some work on paper to bring home, but the work on the wall was just amazing. I wish I could have gone to Madhubani and seen it in real life for myself!! Maybe next time I am in India." (Pauline O'Brien -TiCFA tour participant to India in January 2001)
This is a card bought at the Madhubani stall.
It shows the typical facial characteristics and if you look closely enough you may be able to see the textureand colour of the diluted cow dung which has been used to seal the paper.
When we did our own drawings in the Madhubani style, we all loved the fineline drawing so much that we didn't want to risk painting them with colours. Mrs Roy did tell us some of the natural materials that they would have initially used to make their dyes. All of these colours are mixed with goats milk or the milk of a bean plant. The brush is a sharpened or flattened twig.
black - soot from the bottom of a cooking clay pot or the chimney of a lamp.
yellow -pollen / arsenic
red - local clay
Indian red (sindoor) - iron oxide
blue - indigo
Interestingly, when we were looking at Aboriginal fibre crafts in Term 1, we found that they also used many different natural materials to dye the reeds and grasses they used when making their mats and baskets. We experimented with the dyeing of raffia at home.
Some useful URL's to give you more information about this style of Madhubani Tribal Art and examples of their original work.
ShalinCraft - Mudhubani
Crafts India - Maithila Painting