Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Dance of the Warli

How do you decide what to paint?
From my dreams

A wish I had during my growing years just came true yesterday. I finally had my very own dance of the Warli painted onto a terracotta plate adorned with Warli motifs. Black figurines on brown clay conveyed the circle of life suffused with tribal human activity, viz. going to the fields in the cart, stocking the paddy, dancing the 'dhoomar.' A river emerges from the base of two lofty trees and flows in the centre flanked by different crops on either side. The top rim of the plate has a border of 16 couples dancing in formation holding each other at the waist led by a leader with a ceremonial staff.

However this stark beauty is not in fashion now says Ms Suman Sonthalia (34) who displayed Warli items at the annual Diwali mela organized under the aegis of the Blind School, New Delhi (near the Oberoi Hotel). 'People go for more colour now,' she says 'and I have to adapt,' showing me various Warli figurines on wall clocks, pen holders, paper weights, decorative friezes, and vases.

A purist, with a passion for her art, the beaming Suman in fact shepherded me away from the Warli figurines in colour and showed me the stark black on clay plate saying 'THIS is Warli.' The austere plate, the size of a football spoke in a language all its own - about the elemental rhythms of life and the place of man and woman in the cosmic design.

Aakriti Art Creations, Suman's initiative was the first stall I entered for the mela but somehow after being in the world of the Warlis I didn't feel like going around to the numerous other stalls. I had found what I was looking for. A deep peace and a rest for the yearnings of my soul. Life was to be lived with the dignity of the Warlis, working, singing, dancing, in tune with Nature, in harmony with their Gods - a skill we have unlearnt with all our sophistication and 'modernity' as Guha so compellingly argues.#

I simply wanted to ensconce myself in the hermetic world of that plate I held in my hands. Our life must be filled with activities of diverse nature - to give meaning to our existence, to provide for our sustenance and to help us value each breath we take. Always positive in outlook, the dance of the Warli touched my being with their song of life.

Embraced by the energy field of the potter's wheel, my humble obeisance to these deep truths was to gesture to Suman that I would like to buy the plate. Suman stunned me by saying 'Can I present it to you?' She refused to take any money for what I thought was priceless - simply because, as she said, I found time to listen to her. That too while harried clients were stomping through her stall floor demanding whether their parcels were packed and ready for them. As I walked out in a daze carrying the plate, prices like 'Rs 1300' etc. were being bandied about over the buzz of the mela. Somehow I felt they had missed the point. Or the bus.
*The reply of Jivya Soma, a Warli painter quoted in The Painted World of the Warlis: Art and Ritual of the Warli Tribes of Maharashtra by Yashodhara Dalmia, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1998; Lok Kala Series; page 224

#'Lost in the Woods' by Ramachandra Guha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 24 Oct 2008, Edit page

No comments: