White Rice and Red Ochre Warli Tribal Art of Western India
Opening: Saturday 27th 2 - 4 pm
27th September - 18th July 2015
TO BE OPENED by Ace Bourke - Art Curator, Animal Rights Advocate & Blogger
FLOOR TALK by Ace Bourke and curator Narmada Smith
Welcome by Wakka Wakka Dhangatti artist Burri Jerome
Ace Bourke is a Sydney art curator and consultant who has specialised in indigenous and Australian colonial art. He has been a frequent visitor to India over many years and collected the art of a variety of tribal people. Ace has staged several exhibitions in India of Aboriginal art on behalf of the Australian and Indian Governments. He is also an animal rights advocate and blogger and well known for returning Christian the Lion back into the wild
Namada Smith is an artist, curator and a pioneer in bringing Warli art to Australia. She has had a number of exhibitions with galleries in Sydney including Ray Hughes Gallery 2008, Parramasala Arts Festival 2011 and Damien Minton Gallery 2010.
The Warli are the indigenous people from Maharashtra and Gujarat states in western India. Now numbering over a million people the Warli have been able to retain many aspects of their traditional way of life as hunters, fishermen and subsistence farmers.
The Warli have a rich cultural life handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years which finds expression in dance, music and art. It is through the art that one is able to visualise the Warli world from every day life through to a universe of creation animals, supernatural forces and ethical imperatives for survival.
Traditionally Warli art consisted of wall paintings executed only by women rendered on the walls of their dwellings These paintings were primarily created on the occasions of weddings in honour of Palghat, the goddess of marriage. All of nature is personified in the form of Palghat, the Goddess of trees and plants, who presides over marriages and fertility.
Warli huts are square and constructed of wooden poles plastered with mud without windows. The floor is bare and made of cow dung with belongings hanging from the walls or stored in rafters.
The Warli have a strong, totemic association with animals like the tiger, snake, spider, bird, bee, ant, fish and the mythical power of the horse.
As an example the eminent expert on tribal art Ulli Beier stated in his treatise on Jivya Soma Mase that:
â€œThe tiger is the strength of the forest, the power and protection that supernatural forces can give. When a Warli man feels secure he will say â€˜The tiger is on my backâ€™. The spider signifies beauty, cleverness and also strength.â€
Other myths and legends of the Warli also centre around the bountiful corn goddess Kansari who when worshipped causes the fields to bloom, and when neglected, walks away in anger, allowing the farmers to starve.
Warli paintings were first bought to public attention in the mid 1970â€™s by the Indian Government Handcrafts Corporation set up under the able guidance of Pupal Jayankar and her assistant Bhaskar Kulkarni. At first they encouraged the Warli women to commit their designs onto paper who were reluctant to change their medium to work outside their cultural heritage.
Instead it was Jivya Some Mase who broke with tradition and as a male artist began to develop his own visual expression. Some Mase was able to translate village life and ceremony onto paper and canvas while retaining the Warli natural reverence for community, family and the gods of nature and animals.
Some Mase achieved international recognition that sparked a wider appreciation of Warli Art, receiving numerous awards from the Indian Government and having his work exhibited in Germany, France and Japan.
Balu Ladkya Dumada, a master story teller in his own right, was one of the first students of Some Mase was able to paint consistently and extend Jivyaâ€™s sensibility.
The renowned Indian anthropologist Yashodhara Dalmia in her seminal work â€˜The Painted World of the Warlisâ€™ 1988 states referring to Balu Dumada that:
â€œHe has taken to narrating events which take place in the Warli area which are of a metaphorical and mythical character.It was evident that Balu Dumada had been able to extend the traditional forms to express himself as an individual.â€
Jivyaâ€™s son, Balu Some Mase has also travelled extensively overseas to exhibit Warli Art. This exhibition represents works by Jivya Some Mashe and Master painters, Balu Ladkya Dumada, Balu Some Mashe, Shantaram Ghorkhana and Krishna Pasari. Also displayed is a special commissioned work by Parvati Dumada becoming one of the first times that a Warli woman artist has exhibited on canvas away from the traditional wall paintings.
Although differing in many aspects to Indigenous Australian art there can also be similarities drawn between the two movements. In the 1970â€™s when the Australian Aboriginal art movement was heating up and the traditional owners began committing their knowledge to canvas, the same was happening within the Warli community.
This Exhibition will provide art patrons with an insight and understanding into an ancient vision and wisdom that carries a timeless message for our modern world.
- Narmada Smith