Monday, May 31, 2010

The Warli Art Form

On brick-red walls in villages far,
Stories sing in white rice flour...



Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Bombay. The Warli art form is beautiful and historic. At the same time, it is simple. In the form of rudimentary wall paintings, Warli art has a very basic graphic vocabulary that is mostly filled with circles, triangles and squares. The central motif in these ritual paintings is surrounded by scenes portraying hunting, fishing and farming, festivals and dances, trees and animals. 

The pared down pictorial language is matched by a rudimentary technique. The ritual paintings are usually done inside the huts. The walls are made of a mixture of branches, earth and cow dung, making a red ochre background for the wall paintings. The Warlis use only white for their paintings. Their white pigment is a mixture of rice paste and water with gum as a binding. They use a bamboo stick chewed at the end to make it as supple as a paintbrush. 

If you'd like to expose your children to the beautiful Warli art form, take a look at The Blue Jackal offered by Karadi Tales as an audiobook. The Panchatantra folktale of the jackal that fell into the indigo dye is rendered beautifully in Warli by Dileep Joshi. Written by Shobha Viswanath, narrated by Naseeruddin Shah and with music by 3 Brothers & A Violin, this book is a rich and unforgettable experience.