Warli Art

The Warli tribe settlements spread all over the Thane district of the state of Maharashtra. They are inborn artists and their painting tradition is more than 1200 years old. The paintings on the walls of the their huts are traditionally done by the women of the tribe and are greatly influenced by the their surroundings and day to day life. These wall murals are done on red mud or cow dung layered walls and the figures are painted with a rice-flour mix, which could be washed off and re-painted every season. The traditional life of the Warli reflects their interaction, or more precisely, their co-existence with nature. The Warli believe that everything in this world interacts : the actions of humans and the harmony of space. The universal harmony is maintained by the implicit unique communication between humans and deities.
Today it is the men who practice this art form. In the 1970s this ritual art took a radical turn, when Jivya Soma Mashe started to paint, not for any special ritual, but on an everyday basis. He has been recognized as a Master Craftsman by the Government of India. He explains that the stick-figure art form of the Warlis was started by women, who would create a painting on the wall for a wedding, to ensure good fortune for the newly weds. The male artists adapted the art, transferring it to paper and canvas to supplement their income with a growing demand for the lyrical art. They have evolved from restricted ritual drawings on mud walled huts into a pictorial repository of folk tales, humor and myth

This extremely rudimentary wall paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle and a square. The circle and triangle come from their observation of nature, the circle representing the sun and the moon, the triangle derived from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square seems to obey a different logic and seems to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land.
Human and animal bodies are represented by two triangles joined at the tip; the upper triangle depicts the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolizes the balance of the universe, and of the couple. These tribal art startle visually without the prop of color and with a remarkable economy of detail. 

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